BOSTON — Kevin Kiermaier's line drive sailed over right fielder Hunter Renfroe's head and bounced off the short wall in front of the Boston Red Sox bullpen and back onto the warning track. It ricocheted off Renfroe and into the air.
Renfroe waved at it desperately — and unsuccessfully — to keep it from going out of play.
It's a good thing he couldn't.
Saved by an obscure rule and a bounce that was weird even for quirky Fenway Park, the Red Sox staggered the Tampa Bay Rays with a 6-4 win Sunday night on Christian Vázquez's home run in the bottom of the 13th inning. With that, Boston moved one victory from eliminating the 100-win American League East Division champions from the playoffs.
"I was speechless," said Red Sox center fielder Kiké Hernandez, who had come over to back up Renfroe. "I don't know if you guys have seen that before. I've never seen that before in my life.
"I wasn't sure what was going to get called. I wasn't sure if the runners had to return. ... Like, I had no idea. Luckily, it went our way. And you call it home-field advantage if you want — call it whatever you want — but we won."
The wild-card Red Sox took a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five AL Division Series, with Game 4 Monday at Fenway. If necessary, Game 5 will be played Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tampa Bay rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie it in the eighth inning and it was still 4-all when Yandy Diaz singled with one out in the top of the 13th. Then came the play that had the umpires scurrying for the rulebook and the Rays scratching their heads.
Diaz was halfway from second to third when Kiermaier's ball bounced over the five-foot-high wall, and he easily would have scored had it remained in play. But the umpires conferred and went to the headsets before awarding Kiermaier a double and sending Diaz back to third.
Baseball Rule 5.05(a)(8) states: "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."
"If I stayed at second, that's fine," Kiermaier said. "But I was hoping to see that Yandy scored, because he would have scored obviously. It's incredible that it worked out to their advantage just like that."
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he watched the replay and it was obvious Renfroe didn't knock it over the wall on purpose.
"That's just the rule. That's the way it goes. It was very unfortunate for us," he said. "I think it was fairly obvious that K.K. or Yandy was going to come around to score, but it didn't go our way."
Said umpire crew chief Sam Holbrook: "It's in the rulebook. It's a ground rule double. There's no discretion that the umpires have. There's no, 'He would have done this, would have done that.' It's just flat out in the rule book, it's a ground rule double."
When play resumed, Nick Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning and came bounding off the mound in celebration.
Renfroe walked with one out in the bottom half, then Vázquez hit the first pitch from Luis Patiño over the Green Monster to end it.
White Sox 12, Astros 6
CHICAGO — Two big swings by pint-sized Leury García. A rule-testing run by Yasmani Grandal. Solid relief work from Liam Hendriks and company.
Right when the Chicago White Sox got in big trouble, they found a way.
García and Grandal homered, and Grandal's borderline baserunning helped the White Sox top the Houston Astros to stay alive in their ALDS.
Backed by a boisterous crowd of 40,288, the AL Central champions erased a 5-1 deficit in the franchise's first home playoff game in 13 years. Tim Anderson collected three more hits, and Ryan Tepera started a stellar finish for Chicago's bullpen after Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech struggled.
Houston was hoping to sweep its way into its fifth consecutive appearance in the AL Championship Series. The AL West winners got off to a fast start behind Kyle Tucker, but they failed to record a hit in the last five innings.
"I think we made a statement," Grandal said.
Game 4 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Monday afternoon, but there is rain in the forecast.
The playoff-tested Astros rolled into Chicago after a pair of impressive victories at home, then jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Game 3. The sweet-swinging Tucker hit a two-run double off Cease in the second and a two-run homer off Kopech in the third.
Houston's fast start silenced the towel-waving crowd, but it got revved up again in the bottom half of the third.
After Grandal's two-run shot just over the wall in left made it 5-3, Yoán Moncada and Gavin Sheets reached on two-out singles. Leury García then looked at two balls from Luis Garcia before Astros manager Dusty Baker replaced his starting pitcher with Yimi García.
Once all the Garcías had been sorted out, the move backfired for the Astros. Leury García, listed at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, drove a 3-1 pitch from Yimi García deep to center for a 436-foot homer.
The game was tied at 6 when the White Sox went ahead to stay with three runs in the fourth — highlighted by a memorable run by Grandal that rankled Baker and the Astros.
After José Abreu's tiebreaking RBI single put runners on the corners with none out, Grandal hit a bouncer to Yuli Gurriel at first. Gurriel tried to come home, but his throw went went off Grandal as the veteran catcher sprinted up the line in the infield grass.
Luis Robert scored, taking out umpire Tom Hallion in the process, and Gurriel was charged with an error. The Astros lobbied for an interference call on Grandal, but the umpires huddled and left the play in place.
Baker then had a long argument with Hallion before returning to the dugout.
"I start running, and then all of a sudden he's throwing the ball right at me," Grandal said. "I didn't really think about what was going on at the plate."