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."