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Tampa Bay Rays stung by controversial ground-rule double in ALDS Game 3 loss to Boston Red Sox

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BOSTON — Kevin Kiermaier felt sure that Yandy Diaz was going to score and give the Tampa Bay Rays a 5-4 lead in the 13th inning of Sunday night’s pivotal ALDS Game 3 against the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays outfielder hit one off the Fenway Park right-field fence, the ball bouncing on the ground before deflecting off Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe‘s right hip and skipping over the fence.

Had the ball not bounced over the fence, Diaz would have easily scored. Instead, crew chief Sam Holbrook called the umpires back toward the infield and they made a decision: the ball would be ruled a ground-rule double and Diaz would need to return to third base. The score would remain tied at 4, only to be broken a half-inning later by a walk-off homer from Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, cementing a 6-4 Boston victory and setting up an elimination game for Tampa Bay on Monday in Game 4 at Fenway Park.

“I can’t believe that happened or we don’t get the chance to score right there,” Kiermaier said. “For one, I crushed that ball. I was hoping to leave the yard. I got a lot of snap and crackle but no pop. First and foremost, for that to happen right there, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Holbrook said the entire six-man crew of umpires came to the same conclusion based on the Rule 5.06 in the MLB umpire handbook, which states that any fair ball deflected by the fielder into the stands leads to the batter and runner being entitled to advance two bases.

“Very simple,” Holbrook said. “From an umpire’s standpoint, very simple textbook in the rule.”

After the ruling, Rays manager Kevin Cash asked if there was anything he could do in the situation. The umpires went to replay to double-check that Renfroe had not intentionally kicked the ball out. Cash agreed that Renfroe did not intentionally ricochet the ball out of the ballpark.

“That’s just the rule,” Cash said. “That’s the way it goes. It was very unfortunate for us. I think it was fairly obvious that [Kiermaier] or Yandy was going to come around to score, but it didn’t go our way.”

Renfroe said he attempted to catch the ball before it bounced off the wall.

“Happened to look up and the wall was right there,” Renfroe said. “Hopefully, thankfully, bounced over the fence and they issued a ground-rule double.”

Cash wished the play had created a different result, but expressed acceptance over the outcome.

“Certainly in the moment, you can appreciate somewhat of a blanket rule, but we put a lot on these umpires and now we’ve introduced video to umpires,” Cash said. “I think it would be a very easy call if somebody stepped in and said it was stating the obvious that he was going to score. Saying that, it’s been a rule for a long time and we’re going to play within the rules that are presented to us this season.”

But the rules did not take the sting out of the moment for the Rays’ clubhouse.

“It’s a heartbreaker,” Kiermaier said. “Plain and simple.”

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Chicago White Sox’s Yasmani Grandal says he didn’t intentionally get in way of throw to home as Houston Astros claim interference

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CHICAGO — Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal claimed he didn’t intentionally get in the way of a throw from Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to catcher Martin Maldonado as he ran to first base during a key moment in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night.

“I wish I could tell you it was a heads-up play,” Grandal said after the White Sox’s 12-6 win to stave off elimination in the best-of-five series. “I didn’t even know I was running that far inside the line. I was actually just trying to get to first.”

The Sox were leading 7-6 with runners on first and third and no outs when Grandal hit a ground ball to Gurriel, who attempted to cut down Luis Robert at the plate.

As the Sox’s catcher ran toward first while on the grass to the left of the chalk, he was hit by the ball coming home to Maldonado. It deflected away from the Astros’ catcher, allowing Robert to score and the inning to continue without the Astros getting an out on the play. Houston claimed interference.

“I tried to make the argument that he did get in the way,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Interference would be called only if Grandal intentionally got in the way of the throw. All six umpires huddled on the infield grass, eventually declaring there was no intention.

“We decided that there was no interference because on that play, where the ball is hit to the infield and then coming back to the plate, that 45-foot line does not even come into play,” crew chief Tom Hallion said. “The batter established his basepath when he came out of the box and started running. He didn’t veer off. He didn’t throw up his shoulder. He did nothing intentional to get hit with that ball.”

The play is different than if the throw was going to first to get Grandal. Then he would subjected to interference without intent, but the throw home is no different than one to any other base. If it hits the runner, it’s a live ball and no interference is called.

“I was arguing the fact that especially him being a catcher, he knows what he was doing,” Baker said. “I mean, that was a smart play on his part, and that was the explanation that they gave me that they didn’t see anything wrong with the play.”

White Sox manager Tony La Russa was adamant the ball hit Grandal accidentally and not intentionally.

“There’s no way he could do that on purpose,” La Russa said. “I guarantee you that there was no intent to interfere with that play. I can guarantee it.”

The Sox scored another run in the inning then added three more in the eighth to become the first team to score at least 10 runs in a playoff game and strike out at least 15 hitters in the same contest. Houston struck out a total of 16 times on the night, but the game was still in doubt when the Grandal play occurred, helping keep the series alive for the home team.

“It takes me a long time to get there [first base], so as I hit the ball, I’m looking down,” Grandal said. “As I look up, I see the ball kind of coming straight at me. I try to get out of the way, and it hit me.”

Game 4 is Monday afternoon.

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MLB playoffs 2021 – Fenway magic is in the air as Red Sox roll into ALCS

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BOSTON — The chants at Fenway Park during this Red Sox playoff run echo in your mind. When Gerrit Cole struggled through the AL Wild Card Game, failing to make it past three innings, Boston fans made chants of “GERRIT!” ring through the crowd. When Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena ran out to right field, Red Sox fans in the bleachers let him hear it with chants of “RANDY!” (He tipped his hat in response.) After Luis Patiño gave up a game-winning home run to Christian Vazquez in Game 3, fans greeted him pre-game in Game 4 with jeers, leading the Rays pitcher to blow kisses to the crowd. When Patiño later entered the game — facing Vazquez — the Fenway crowd echoed a jeer from annals of Red Sox history.

“WHO’S YOUR DADDY?”

Maybe it’s the months spent inside during COVID quarantine. Maybe it’s that the Red Sox find themselves back in the playoffs after posting one of the worst records in baseball during the 2020 season. Maybe it’s the division rivalry playoff games against the Yankees and the Rays that elicited the rowdy bleacher chants, but few around Fenway Park can remember an atmosphere this loud and enthusiastic as the audience the Red Sox played in front of in Boston during this playoff run.

With the roar of a Marathon Monday crowd behind them, Boston advanced to the ALCS with a 6-5 win over the Rays on Monday night. The Red Sox took the lead early in the game in the third inning behind a Rafael Devers three-run homer, an Alex Verdugo RBI double and an RBI single from designated hitter J.D. Martinez. While the Rays chipped away at the score in the fifth innings with an RBI from Austin Meadows and a sixth-inning Wander Franco home run, even eventually tying the score in the eighth, the Red Sox rallied yet again, with a Kiké Hernandez walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Players on both the Rays and Yankees admitted the effect of the crowd on the game. The sentiment from those around the team — from the Fenway Park security guards to the players to the coaches to the front office executives — remained the same across the board: The crowds in Boston are at another level this postseason, a near-legendary status.

There’s magic in the air right now at Fenway Park.

Outfielder Hunter Renfroe: “I think that was probably the best fans, noise, interaction that I’ve ever seen, from both ours and Yankees fans alike.”

Hitting coach Tim Hyers: “My personal experience, this has been as good as any. I’ve had my kids in town and they’ve been to a lot of playoff games with me and they said this was incredible. They haven’t experienced Fenway like it was in the past week.”

Assistant GM Eddie Romero: “Louder than the 2018 World Series.”

The crowds at Fenway have plenty of reasons for excitement. Coming into the season, the analytics group for the Boston Red Sox projected modest expectations for the 2021 team, a squad they believed could win around 86 games and compete for a wild-card slot. Instead, by the end of the first half, they were on pace to win 98. No other team in baseball tallied more comeback wins , who, in the process, re-calibrated expectations for the season.

Still, Red Sox fans fumed at the trade deadline when the team added slugger Kyle Schwarber and reliever Hansel Robles but no additional reinforcements to the bullpen and rotation. By late September, after the Sox were swept by the Yankees then dropped two-of-three against the Baltimore Oriole, the pressure had risen again — Boston needed a win in the final game of the season to clinch a spot in the Wild Card Game. In that must-win game, against the Nationals, the Red Sox fell behind 5-1 before Rafael Devers hit a game-winning home run — his second of the day — that helped supercharge the Red Sox into the playoffs in one of the final plays of the MLB season.

Better yet, their wild-card appearance would come at home — against the Yankees. In front of the first playoff crowd at Fenway since the 2018 World Series, the Red Sox showed up early — scoring two runs against Gerrit Cole in the first inning — and often, controlling the entire game and winning 6-2. That win set a tone, and they haven’t lost a playoff game at home yet. dropping the ALDS opener in Tampa Bay, they took Game 2 away and then both games in Boston, including a Game 3 walk-off after a controversial play that would have given the Rays the lead in the 13th.

Each of these games had a different hero: Devers. Hernandez. Vazquez. But even before the postseason heroics began, Alex Cora pointed to his ballclub’s roster depth — particularly as a parallel with the 2018 team that beat the Dodgers in the World Series. As Boston prepared to finish off the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4, that assessment was more true than ever — and Cora believes it’s a huge reason why the team is moving onto the American League Championship Series.

“As far as versatility, we have to be creative and we try to maximize our roster the best we can,” Cora said earlier in the season. “I think that team was faster. We were able to do more running the bases, but I think result-wise, offensively, it’s very, very similar.”

That offense is the core to the team’s success this postseason — and in the regular season, when Boston finished fifth in baseball in runs scored. Cora’s belief in the team’s ability to collect runs fuels an optimism in the Boston dugout that no matter the score, the Red Sox offense gives the team a chance to win — much like the 2018 team, when they averaged more than five runs per game.

“We talk about it in the dugout like, ‘hey, let’s do what we do. Put up good at-bats,'” Cora said. “What they did yesterday, they’ve done it the whole season. They scored the most runs after the seventh inning. They hit good pitching late in games, and their at-bats are a lot better late in games, and their at-bats are a lot better late in games. I think when you have good offensive teams, you give yourselves a chance for nine innings.”

Hernández, perhaps more than any other player, seemed to take advantage of the magic in Fenway this weekend, following up his standout Game 2 performance with another three hits in Game 3, including a solo homer and a game-tying RBI. The eight hits in two games tied the all-time record in a single postseason (Derek Jeter had eight hits in two games during a span between the 2005 and 2006 postseason), while his seven consecutive hits fell one short of the all-time record.

It was the kind of performance Hernández had hoped for since he signed with Boston, looking to establish himself as an everyday player after his time with the Dodgers typecast him as a utility player. But for much of the season, the transition seemed unlikely to work out. Hernández said he struggled to feel comfortable in the early part of the season after Cora anointed him the lineup’s leadoff man. He started to settle in in late June, when Hernández decided to hit the reset button on his season after hitting .227/.287/.387 through June 25 before smashing a leadoff homer against Gerrit Cole on June 26.

“I told myself that the season started today and started feeling better, and then that day against Cole, they put me back in the leadoff spot and I was already feeling pretty good at the plate and then I said that I’ll take my chance the first pitch of the game and I hit a homer first pitch,” Hernández said. “I took off from there.”

The combined playoff experience of the roster contributes to the team’s ability to stage comebacks, according to Hyers. Bogaerts, Devers, Martinez and Vázquez all played big roles on the 2018 championship team while recent additions like Hernández, Schwarber and Renfroe all boast playoff experience on their resumes.

“They don’t panic and they know how to play the game to win and offensively they know how to succeed,” Hyers said. “Doing it is a different thing, but they have that experience to draw from.”

As much as this team reminds its manager and many of its players as 2018, going from here, they’ll be comparing themselves to a different Red Sox team: the 2013 squad. The 2021 Red Sox were the fourth team since 1969 to advance to the LCS one season after finishing last in their division. The previous one to do it? The 2013 Red Sox — who went on to win the World Series.

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Los Angeles Dodgers to start Albert Pujols at first base in Game 3 of NLDS

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LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols, the three-time MVP who has been used primarily as a late-game pinch-hitter, will start at first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday night.

The Dodgers will be deploying most of their right-handed hitters against San Francisco Giants lefty Alex Wood, also starting Chris Taylor in center field and keeping A.J. Pollock in left field.

Cody Bellinger, who has been struggling mightily all season but came up with a big double in the Dodgers’ Game 2 win, will be on the bench at the onset but will probably check into the game once the Giants begin using their right-handed relievers.

Pujols, 41, will be starting a playoff game for the first time since Game 3 of the 2014 American League Division Series, as a member of the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols has been particularly effective against opposing left-handed pitchers this season, batting .294/.336/.603. Wood, who will oppose three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, had pretty even splits this season (righties had a .682 OPS against him, lefties had a .674 OPS). Neither team has announced a Game 4 starter.

The Dodgers didn’t work out at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, but the Giants spilled onto the field for workouts close to 8 p.m. PT. Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who wore street clothes while his players took batting practice and did some defensive work, called Pujols “one of the greatest hitters that ever lived.”

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