BOSTON -- One of the zaniest nights you are likely to see at Fenway Park this season ended with delayed elation.
It was the bottom of the 10th inning and the Red Sox had already come back from two runs down to tie it. Alex Verdugo went for the parting shot to end the madness, a drive that curled down the line in right short of Pesky’s Pole, but off the side wall in right.
Was it fair or foul? It was just about impossible to tell in real time.
The Red Sox stood together on the dirt between first and second base and did what spectators at the ballpark and at home did. They watched the replay many times. At last, it was announced that the call on the field was upheld. The crazy game was over, and Boston beat Minnesota, 5-4.
“Every time we hit a ball down the right-field line, we say, ‘Pesky,'” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It kind of stayed true, like a golf shot. He thought it was going to be foul, and then you saw him running and they made the call. And we called [Red Sox replay coordinator] Mikey [Brenly] right away. And he's like, ‘Fair ball.’ And we call again. He's like, ‘Fair ball,’ and then we call again and he's screaming, ‘It’s a fair ball, game over, Trust me.’”
Brenly nailed it, and the Red Sox celebrated.
Verdugo wasn’t exactly 1975 Carlton Fisk with his body English, but he had similar thoughts.
“Stay fair,” Verdugo said. “I knew I made a good swing through it. Instead of hooking it [foul], I kind of brought that slice back to it. It fooled me like three times. I stopped, ran, stopped, ran, stopped. I was like, ‘That ball looks really foul.’ And then just as it went down, it just kept slicing, slicing, slicing, so [it was] just lucky.”
There is no denying the Red Sox had their share of fortune in this one. That furious final frame started with Kiké Hernández reaching base on a strikeout/wild pitch.
Prior to the climactic moment of Verdugo’s walk-off hit, a bunch of weird stuff happened on a night that Chris Sale’s vintage performance (six innings, one run, 11 strikeouts) got lost in the shuffle.
Here is a sampling.
Cora double switched and a pitcher pinch-ran
You weren’t seeing things in the bottom of the 10th inning when Kutter Crawford, fresh off of 6 1/3 innings of brilliant relief a day earlier, was deployed as the automatic runner at second base. Why did it happen? Because the Red Sox ran out of bench players on a night Christian Arroyo (right hamstring) wasn’t unavailable. Cora put Rob Refsnyder into the No. 9 spot in the order and Crawford into the cleanup spot. Masataka Yoshida had made the last out in the bottom of the ninth before Refsnyder replaced him on defense, which is why Crawford was the runner.
Crawford avoided getting injured. In fact, he scored on Reese McGuire’s equalizing two-run single with one out in the 10th.
“When they called my name in the bullpen, I couldn't believe it,” Crawford said. “I asked [bullpen coach Kevin Walker], ‘Are you serious? Like me?’ He said, ‘Yeah get your legs loose, you’re pinch-running, and I said, ‘All right, well, here we go.’”
Hernández joked to Crawford that he should have asked to take home plate with him as a souvenir, being that it was his first career run scored.
Catcher’s interference … sort of
The Red Sox came from behind Saturday in part because the Angels had two catcher’s interference plays in the same inning.
Somehow, it happened again on Tuesday in the bottom of the eighth, with Boston trailing by a run. And as was the case on Saturday, McGuire was the one who was interfered with by a fellow catcher -- this time Christian Vázquez. McGuire got enough of the baseball to awkwardly chop it to third base. Knowing it was interference, McGuire stopped running. That confused the Twins. Third baseman Jose Miranda made a nonchalant throw across the diamond, and first baseman Donovan Solano fielded it short of the bag, thinking it was a dead ball.
Meanwhile, Hernández kept running, going first to third on the play. The ball stays live on catcher’s interference, and the team that gets interfered with has the option of playing on or accepting the interference. The Red Sox played on. Everybody was safe. Hernández narrowly scored on a fielder’s choice to Jarren Duran in which Vázquez dropped the throw.
“Obviously, it wasn’t perfect overall but it was a big league W,” Cora said.