Sunday was Day 4 of Division Series play. The American League teams met with control of the series on the line for Boston and Tampa, while Chicago faced elimination by Houston. Both games featured strange plays that sparked controversy thanks to the opacity of the MLB umpiring and video review processes.
Red Sox lead series 2-1
This game went to extra innings after Randy Arozarena‘s game-tying double in the 8th inning. Neither team threatened to score until the 13th inning.
With two outs and one on in the top of the 13th inning, Kevin Kiermaier lined a Pivetta slider into right field. The ball caromed off the outfield wall, striking right fielder Hunter Renfroe in the chest and landing in the Boston bullpen. Thanks to this fluke occurrence, the hit was ruled a ground-rule double to the chagrin of Kiermaier. Yandy Díaz, who would have scored on a live ball, was sent back to third base. Mike Zunino struck out to end the inning after the Rays’ failed challenge, stranding the runners in scoring position.
This play illustrated the failings of MLB’s video review process. Unlike in other leagues, no verbal explanation is provided to fans and viewers over the PA system. Explanations are provided to managers, but fans are unable to hear them. This lack of transparency fuels distrust in the system, especially given that Boston is a major television market and Tampa is not.
In the bottom of the inning, Christian Vázquez‘s blast over the Green Monster sent the Boston fans home happy and gave the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead.
The Chicago White Sox returned to Guaranteed Rate Field looking to fend off elimination after falling into a 0-2 hole against the Houston Astros. They looked to be in deep trouble after falling behind 5-1 after Kyle Tucker‘s home run in the 3rd inning. Instead, they came roaring back in the bottom of the inning thanks to home runs by Yasmani Grandal and Leury García. García’s bomb gave the Sox a 6-5 advantage.
Houston rallied to tie the game in the 4th on Alex Bregman‘s RBI single, which was answered by José Abreu in the bottom of the inning. With Luis Robert on third base, weirdness ensued when the Yasmanian Devil reached after hitting a chopper to first base fielded by Yuli Gurriel. Grandal ran towards first base on the infield grass inside the base path and was struck in the left shoulder by Gurriel’s throw home. The ball rolled past Astros catcher Martín Maldonado as Robert slid headfirst into the ankles of umpire Tom Hallion. Abreu advanced to third and Gurriel’s play was ruled to be a throwing error.
Newly-minted color analyst Adam Wainwright had the following comment about Grandal’s gamesmanship:
Adam Wainwright had the best take on Grandal running inside the baseline as a throw came home. "He didn't NOT do it on purpose."
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 11, 2021
Astros fans, not known for their sense of irony, cried foul at the lack of an interference call on Grandal. There was no review on the play.
The interference rule is yet another arbitrarily enforced MLB rule that nobody seems to understand, least of all announcers who are part of postseason national broadcasting teams. Here is an example of Brewers and TBS play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson fumbling in a similar situation:
E1 🚨 🚨 🚨
Most bizarre “error” of the year pic.twitter.com/oFB81HNMkl
— MLB Errors (@mlberrors) April 28, 2021
If a baseball rule is widely misunderstood by the public, I would have to say it is not a very good rule. However, it’s nice to see the Astros get the short end of the stick for a change.
The White Sox ultimately scored 12 runs on 16 hits to trounce the Astros and force a fourth game.
Today will offer another four-game slate starting with Milwaukee vs. Atlanta at 1:07 PM ET, followed by Houston vs. Chicago at 3:37 PM ET. The night games will be Tampa vs. Boston at 7:07 PM ET and San Francisco vs. Los Angeles at 9:37 PM ET.