Red Sox-Rays rule explained: Why Tampa wasn’t awarded run after ball was knocked over Fenway Park fence

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In the top of the 13th inning of Game 3 of the Rays-Red Sox American League Division Series, it looked like the Rays were going to take the lead. With two outs and Yandy Diaz at first base, Kevin Kiermaier was at the plate. It was tied, 4-4, as it had been throughout extra innings. On the 3-2 pitch, Díaz took off and Kiermaier sent a rocket to right-center: 

So the ball hit the wall, ricocheted off of Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe and went over the wall. 

The rule in play is 5.05(a)(8)

Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;

In perusing all of Rule 5, that’s pretty much it. On the broadcast it was noted that the ball retains its “batted ball” status until it is cleanly fielded. Renfroe clearly did not field the ball. 

As such, the umpires’ ruling that Díaz had to stay at third and Kiermaier at second was correct. Díaz was only allowed two bases from the base he previously occupied and it was an automatic double. 

Now, two common myths are lingering: 

  • Díaz was stealing and was just about to second base when Kiermaier sent that shot to right center. Shouldn’t it be two bases from there? 
  • Isn’t there umpire discretion on this? That is to say, can’t they judge that Díaz was going to easily score even if Renfroe cleanly fielded the ball? 

There is absolutely nothing in the rulebook about whether the baserunner was stealing or umpire discretion regarding the awarding of two bases to any baserunner or hitter. 

Now, there’s little doubt debates will be held as to whether the rule should be altered moving forward. It certainly didn’t seem “fair” that the ball could hit off a Red Sox defender and go over the wall after Díaz was almost halfway home only to have him be sent back. There’s also little doubt that the rule was applied correctly in this play. If the Rays got jobbed here it was by incredibly weird circumstance, and perhaps a rule that needs updating, but not by the umpiring crew. 

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