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Bizarre Ground-Rule Double Prevents Rays From Scoring Go-Ahead Run vs. Red Sox


Through three games, the American League Division Series between the Rays and Red Sox has been marked by quirky ballpark oddities.

Thursday's Game 1 featured a home run by Nelson Cruz that clanged off the catwalk as Tampa Bay won 5-0. Game 3 on Sunday night saw Fenway Park's odd dimensions enter the fray, this time in much more consequential—and controversial—fashion.

With two outs and Yandy Díaz on first base in the top of the 13th inning, Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hit a fly ball deep to right-center field that bounced off the short wall. The ball then hit the ground and ricocheted off of Hunter Renfroe over fence. As the play came on a full count, Díaz was running on the pitch and was beginning to round third base when the ball bounced out of the field of play.

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After some confusion, the umpires ruled the play a ground-rule double and sent Díaz back to third base, denying the Rays a go-ahead run and keeping the score tied, 4-4. Catcher Mike Zunino struck out on four pitches to end the threat for Tampa Bay. Then, in the bottom half of the inning, Renfroe worked a one-out walk before catcher Christian Vázquez crushed a two-run, walk-off homer to give the Red Sox the win and a 2-1 series lead.

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"By rule, it's just a ground-rule double," Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the game. "The umpires got together, met and said 'You are more than welcome to challenge it.' At that point, I saw the replay, obviously there was nothing intentional by it. That's just the rule, it's the way to go and it was very unfortunate for us. But it was fairly obvious Yandy was gonna come around to score. but it just didn't go our way."

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The rule that explains what is to happen in this situation is Rule 5.05(a)(8), per ESPN's Jeff Passan, which states that batter and base runner shall be awarded two bases in the event of “any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory.”

“That’s the ruling; the umpire explained it to me," Kiermaier said. "The rules are what they are. But that’s a heartbreaker. I can’t believe that’s a ground-rule double.”

That rule is sure to come under fire after playing such a pivotal role in a crucial playoff game, though it's the Red Sox who benefit this time around. Game 4 is scheduled for Monday, and it's anyone's guess for which part of Fenway Park will help to determine the outcome next time.

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