Mound-visit miscue doesn't faze Rays in frantic finish at Fenway

May 17th, 2024

BOSTON -- The Rays’ 7-5 win over the Red Sox on Thursday night at Fenway Park presented all sorts of twists and turns. Tampa Bay jumped out to an early four-run lead, let it slip away then struck back against closer to retake the lead in the ninth inning.

But they saved the most unusual twist for the very end.

The Rays ran out of mound visits in the ninth inning, only for pitching coach Kyle Snyder to try to make another one with two outs and pitching. Red Sox manager Alex Cora reminded the umpires of the rule that required the Rays to make a pitching change as soon as Snyder crossed the third-base line.

Then came a lengthy pause, a call to New York for a rules check and another call to the Tampa Bay bullpen, where was the only available reliever remaining. Ramírez didn’t know exactly what was happening, he admitted later, but he knew he had to get ready to pitch.

In the end, Ramírez retired Romy Gonzalez, picked up his first save since 2020 and secured the Rays’ series victory.

“It was an odd scene. It felt really long,” Adam said. “It was definitely a weird experience, but glad we came out on the right end of it.”

Here’s how it went down:

Adam took the mound to start the bottom of the ninth, looking to protect the two-run lead Tampa Bay gained on Isaac Paredes’ tiebreaking single and Richie Palacios’ sacrifice fly against Jansen.

Adam retired the first two batters he faced, then walked Rob Refsnyder. That prompted a mound visit from catcher Ben Rortvedt, the fourth and final one the Rays were allotted, before Rafael Devers came to the plate.

Devers hit a single to right, which put runners on the corners, at which point Snyder emerged from the dugout for another mound visit. But because Tampa Bay was out of visits, umpires stopped Snyder shortly after he crossed the third-base line.

Crew chief Phil Cuzzi told a pool reporter that the umpires initially thought, “OK, he never got to the mound, so here we are in the ninth inning with two outs, [and] he never did speak to his pitcher. So we felt we would let it go. But Alex with the Red Sox naturally came out and said, ‘No, you saw it. No. No. You know the rule.’

“So, we said, ‘We know the rule. Let’s just get a rules check from New York.’ New York confirmed what we knew, and it was very clear that [Rays manager Kevin] Cash had to come out and change his pitcher. … When I told him that, he had absolutely no question about it. He went right to the mound to change pitchers.”

Rule 5.10(m)(4) regarding the enforcement of mound visit limits states, “A manager or coach who crosses the foul line on his way to the mound after his team has exhausted its mound visits must make a pitching change, unless the pitcher has not pitched to a minimum of three consecutive batters.”

As noted last December in the announcement of rules modifications for this season, mound visits were reduced from five per game to four, “and an extra mound visit will still be awarded for the ninth inning if the defensive team has zero remaining at the end of the eighth inning.” Because the Rays used their last visit in the ninth, they were not eligible to receive another one.

Cash agreed with the umpires’ decision and put the blame entirely on himself, saying he “let the mound visits slip in my mind” after Rortvedt went to the mound in the ninth.

“It’s on me. I screwed up,” Cash said. “And I'm glad that it didn't cost us a ballgame.”

Due to Cora’s conversation with the umpires and the call for a rules check, there was still a lengthy delay of more than five minutes between the attempted mound visit and play resuming. After the game, Cora was upset about the amount of time Ramírez had to warm up.

“They messed it up, because they had time to warm up Erasmo there in the bullpen. You’ve got to throw him out right away,” Cora said. “He comes in, he gets eight pitches and then he goes. That’s the way the rule goes. By the time I went out there to argue [for] the rule check, he has time to warm up. It was probably going to be the same outcome, whatever, but to not be prepared for a big league game. It was [supposed to be] eight pitches, and [to] go through that, it was tough.”

Said Cash: “He's gonna get ready one way or the other. They're gonna give him time. He's not going to have to come in the game and not be ready to pitch.”

Uncertain if he would remain in or be taken out, Adam remained on the mound for most of the delay, stretching and occasionally throwing even as Fenway Park’s lights turned low and The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” pulsed through the ballpark speakers.

The Rays “immediately” called to get Ramírez ready, Cash said, and the veteran right-hander hurriedly prepared for his unexpected appearance with the game on the line. Eventually, Cuzzi informed Cash of their decision, at which point Cash took the ball from Adam and called for Ramírez.

“I was confused. I was just like, 'What's going on?'” Ramírez said. “They just told me, 'Hey, he might kick Adam out, so no matter what, you're going in.' … That's what I put in my mind, just go, be aggressive. It's one out. We can do it.”

Five pitches later, Gonzalez bounced a ball back to Ramírez, who tossed it to first baseman Jonathan Aranda for the final out to seal the Rays’ ninth win in their last 13 games and their 14th in 17 matchups with the Red Sox since the start of last season.

Nearly 15 minutes after it was all over, Ramírez said his heart was still pounding.

“That's a huge, huge out by Erasmo. That's so hard to come in like that, and he did,” Adam said. “To take three of four from these guys at their house, that's big. I think everybody in here is playing really good baseball. I like where we're at. I think we're in a good spot for the rest of the season.