The Red Sox were beaten, 2-1, by the Tampa Bay Rays Monday night thanks to a blown call by umpire Jerry Meals in the bottom of the eighth inning. But it never should have come to that — for several reasons.
Let’s break down an eventful inning:
• David Price started for the Rays despite a 39-minite rain delay. He struck out Jonny Gomes but then was taken out of the game because manager Joe Maddon was uneasy.
• Facing Joel Peralta, Ryan Lavarnway drilled a pitch off the wall in left. Sam Fuld, a defensive replacement, misplayed it into a double.
• Daniel Nava, not the considerably faster Jose Iglesias, pinch ran for Lavarnway. Sox manager John Farrell said he wanted to save Iglesias for a possible double switch later in the game. Again, it was the eighth inning.
• Fan favorite Stephen Drew crushed a ball to right field, clearly over the head of Wil Myers. But Nava misjudged the flight of the ball and was going back to second when it landed. He advanced only as far as third base.
“I should have scored. It’s my fault. Bad read,” Nava said. “It happens. … I thought he was about to catch the ball. I started to creep back to second. With one out, you have to keep extending. I told myself that a second before.”
Farrell offered no excuses for his player.
“Just kind of misread at that point,” he said. “You’re schooled if the ball is not caught to be in a position to be able to score. Unfortunately at that point, Nava’s momentum had him going back to second base.”
It was the second poor decision by Nava on the bases in a span of 10 days. Only July 20, he tried to tag from first on a foul pop to Yankees catcher Chris Stewart and was thrown out to end the eighth inning of a 5-2 loss.
• With Nava at third and one out, Farrell let Brandon Snyder hit, leaving Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the bench. It worked out when Snyder hit a fly ball to the gap in left.
Fuld’s throw was to the first base side of the plate and catcher Jose Molina had to bring his glove back to tag Nava. Nava’s left leg got under the tag and touched the plate. But Meals, who was out of position behind Molina, called Nava out and the inning was over.
Meals admitted to a pool reporter that he blew the call.
“Molina blocked the plate and Nava’s foot lifted. But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava’s foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision,” he said. “From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
Farrell was ejected. Nava protested vehemently, too.
“It was a missed call. A terrible call,” Farrell said. “Clearly the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view. … He was blocked out of the play. You see the reaction of the base runner. They tell you everything.”
• But wait, more intrigue was to come. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Fernando Rodney. But he did not steal second right away. Shane Victorino failed to get a bunt down then lined softly to second. A wasted out.
Ellsbury stole second but Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop, another wasted out. Joe Maddon had David Ortiz intentionally walked.
With Iglesias running for Ortiz. a wild pitch moved the runners up. But after six fastballs that ranged from 96-99 m.p.h., Rodney fanned Mike Napoli with a changeup to end the game.
With 55 games left for the Red Sox, it’s a little hyperbolic to say this is a huge swing. But if the Red Sox lose the division or a playoff spot by a game, this will be the game they remember.