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The battle for first place in the American League East took a pivotal turn on a call at home plate that the home-plate umpire later admitted he flat-out missed. In the eighth inning of Monday's game between Boston and Tampa Bay, with runners on second and third, one out and Tampa up 2-1, Red Sox third baseman Brandon Snyder lifted a flyball to shallow left field that Sam Fuld caught. Fuld then wound up and unleashed a throw that took him literally off his feet as pinch-runner Daniel Nava raced for home. Nava slid in just as the ball arrived at home, and on first glance, appeared to get his lead foot under the pads and glove of catcher Jose Molina.
But home-plate umpire Jerry Meals ruled Nava out on the throw, ending the inning and prompting a furious outburst from Nava and Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was thrown out for arguing the call. And as the replays showed, Farrell was right to be angry.
Tampa finished the win, albeit not before the Red Sox again put two on in the ninth but failed to score, giving the Rays a 1/2-game lead in the division.
After the game, Meals admitted to Associated Press reporter Ken Powtak that he, in fact, had the call wrong:
“What I saw was: Molina blocked the plate and Nava’s foot lifted,” Meals said. “But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava’s foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
That was of little comfort to Farrell, who ripped Meals after the game for the call:
“It was a missed call, terrible call,” Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was ejected for arguing the call, said after the game. “Clearly, the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view. Daniel Nava was safe. It’s unfortunate, we should still be playing right now.”
Nava, too, said afterward that he felt he was safe, though he was somewhat more diplomatic than Farrell:
“There was no doubt in my mind, I knew I was safe,” Nava said. “Obviously with the human element, there are certain elements [when instant replay gets brought up], but this was just one that most of the time they’d probably get the call right, it just went against us. It’s part of the game, and obviously if you’re on the other side, in the other locker room, you don’t really care. When you’re on this side, you care a little more.”
It probably helps to know that, prior to the call at home, Nava had a chance to score on Stephen Drew's double that bounced off the right-field wall. Nava admitted that he got a bad read on the flyball, which landed a couple of steps behind Tampa rightfielder Wil Myers, and thus was unable to come home on the play.
Lost in all the hoopla of the missed call was another stellar outing for David Price, who allowed one run on two hits in 7 1/3 rain-shortened innings, striking out eight. Price actually came out for the eighth inning after a brief rain delay, but was pulled after retiring the first batter. Joel Peralta (2/3 IP, 2 H) and Francisco Rodney (1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) finished the game for Tampa. The Red Sox and Rays won't see each other again for a couple of months; the next series between the two teams won't be until September 10. Until then, we'll have to get by on this brief slap fight between the two teams' Twitter accounts after Monday's game.