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:
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. It was no doubt a major break for the Red Sox, as Renfroe illustrated when talking about how he was trying to field the ball.
"I was actually going for the catch," he said (via Alex Speier). "[I] happened to look up, the wall was right there. Thankfully it bounced over the fence."
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.
There was no argument from the Rays dugout. Manager Kevin Cash said after the game (via Evan Closky). "By rule it's a ground-rule double. That's the rule. That's the way it goes. Very unfortunate for us. Didn't go our way."
"I'm just in awe right now," Kiermaier added (via Hannah Keyser). "That's the ruling, the umpires explained it to me. So I can't go against that. The rules are what they are. But man, that's a heartbreaker."
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.