The Boston Marathon was rescheduled for Monday, but the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays decided go the distance on Sunday. With the ALDS tied, 1-1, the clubs battled through a 13-inning staredown in Game 3 until Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez crushed a walk-off two-run homer to win it, 6-4.
After innings and innings that lacked offense, the end came with a sudden turnabout and a burst of drama.
In the top of the 13th, the game was altered by a baseball situation most had never encountered. With Yandy Diaz on first, Kevin Kiermaier smoked a fly ball to the wall in right field. It bounced off Fenway Park’s short fence, clanged off of Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe and landed in the bullpen.
Make it make sense pic.twitter.com/QyLp3UTpdL— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 11, 2021
The umpires ruled it was a ground-rule double, denying Diaz the run he would have otherwise scored if the ball hadn’t gone out of play. Which, as it turns out, is the rule as written — making Renfroe’s deflection an accidentally brilliant strategic play.
The rule reads: "If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and then goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch."— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 11, 2021
Pivetta struck out the next batter to strand Diaz and Kiermaier.
Game 3 started out like the rest of the series — with plenty of early scoring. Rays outfielder Austin Meadows walloped a two-run homer in the top of the first, and Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber answered with a solo blast in the bottom of the frame.
As Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi settled in and cruised through five innings, it appeared the Red Sox had taken control. Kiké Hernández, who has eight hits in the last two games, tied the game with an RBI knock in the third, then made it a two-run lead with a humongous homer over the Green Monster in the fifth.
But the Rays rallied in the eighth inning behind wunderkind Wander Franco’s first postseason homer and further October heroics from Randy Arozarena that have become commonplace at this point.
Garrett Whitlock, in from the Red Sox bullpen a batter or two too late, stabilized the situation but the game stretched into extras.
Manuel Margot reached base for Tampa in the 10th, but was thrown out on a steal attempt when he lost contact with second base on the slide. It appeared he may have been safe, but replay upheld the call. Nick Pivetta, who was projected to start Game 4 for Boston, was called upon and delivered four shutout innings with seven strikeouts and several excellent, warp-speed struts off the mound.
Nick Pivetta. 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/cwu45qU2Ah— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 11, 2021
The Rays similarly deployed Luis Patino, who was slated to be in the mix in Game 4. He wound up giving up the game-winning blast. It’s now unclear who will take the hill for either team on Monday, but the top-seeded Rays will now be fighting to avoid elimination.