Wil Myers' mistake begins Rays trainwreck against Red Sox
Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester throws to the Tampa Bay Rays during Game 1 of their American League Division Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Oct. 4, 2013. (GREG M. COOPER/USA Today)
In his Thursday press conference, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell tossed out an intriguing prediction for the American League Division Series between his Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s likely to be well-pitched, typically low-scoring, and there’s going to be a play, a defensive play inside of a game, that will be a swing moment,” said Farrell.
We take you now to the bottom of the fourth inning of Friday’s Game 1 at Fenway Park, a game the Red Sox would eventually win 12-2. But at that moment, on solo home runs by Sean Rodriguez, in the second inning, and by Ben Zobrist in the fourth, the Rays were leading 2-0. Their pitcher, Matt Moore, hadn’t allowed a hit through three innings.
After three sudden-death victories in four days in three different cities, the Rays were humming along like a well-oiled machine, not a care in the world. Cue the theme from Jaws.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Dustin Pedroia singled, the first hit off Moore. Then came the game-changing moment Farrell had envisioned a day earlier.
David Ortiz launched a long fly ball to right-centre. Tampa’s rookie right-fielder Wil Myers tracked it down, waving off his centre fielder, Desmond Jennings, who drifted out of the way. Then, at the very last second, Myers darted forward, as if he had been called off the ball. It landed on the warning track and bounced into the Boston bullpen for a ground rule double.
“I waved Des off with my hand and then as I got under the ball, I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off,” said Myers, who is playing in his first big-league post-season. “Nobody yelled: ‘I got it’ or anything from the bullpen or the crowd. It’s just one of those things. I saw (Jennings) out of the corner of my eye and the centre fielder has priority in the outfield so I backed off. I should have taken control of the situation and caught the ball.”
From that moment on, it was as if the Rays had been stunned into total amnesia. In that inning alone, the Rays, a paragon of defensive fundamentals, made three other major defensive misplays on the way to a five-run Boston uprising.
When the Rays finally got the third out, the Sox had sent 10 men to the plate and had six hits, including three doubles, and a 5-2 lead.
“We caught a break,” said Farrell of the Myers misplay. “Instead of one man on and an additional out for them, we had men at second and third with nobody out and it ends up turning into five runs,” said Farrell. “It pretty much started with the (Ortiz) fly ball that bounced in for a ground rule double.”
In the process, there was a misplayed ball off the Green Monster in left, a dropped third strike that allowed the inning to continue, a bad coverage play at first base that allowed a runner to score from second on a ball that never left the infield.
And it didn’t stop there. In the fifth inning, the Red Sox sent nine men to the plate and added three more runs, leaving the bases loaded when Pedroia struck out to end it. In those two innings the Red Sox sent 19 men to the plate and 13 of them reached base, 10 on base hits. By the end of the fifth, every man in the Red Sox lineup had a base hit, and don’t forget that they didn’t get their first hit against Moore until the fourth.
“Yeah, we didn’t play our best game tonight,” said manager Joe Maddon. “We’ve not been making many mistakes but we made a bunch tonight. We just kind of messed it up in that (fourth) inning. We’re normally not the team that makes those mistakes, but we did tonight.”
By game’s end, eight different Red Sox had driven in runs, including catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who drove in three.
It was a total trainwreck for the Rays and in the middle of it was Myers, being serenaded mercilessly throughout the rest of the game by the relentless sellout Fenway crowd.
“It’s tough. I’ve never experienced something like that before. It’s just one of those situations where, when something like that happens, you’ve got to expect it with this kind of crowd. We’re excited for tomorrow, looking forward to having David on the mound.”
Moore faded early, but Boston starter Jon Lester, who struck out the first four men he faced with dominant stuff, was in for the long haul. He stayed around until the eighth inning and probably could have finished it if need be.
“The adrenalin was flowing,” said Lester. “Our game plan early was to set the tone, go right after the hitters. Then, I just tried to carry it through all the way.”
He gave up just three hits, including the two early homers, and struck out seven over 7.2 innings.
“That’s as powerful stuff as Jon has had all year long,” said Farrell, “and it came at a very good time.”
Given their pedigree, the Rays are not likely to dwell on this mistake-riddled effort for long, if at all.
“If I’ve learned anything,” said Maddon, it’s that 24 hours can make a huge difference. Normally, when a game like this happens during the season, I just throw it in the garbage can. And being this is the first of five, let’s do the same thing now.”