Controversial infield fly proves costly to the Red Sox
The Red Sox received a gift when Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker dropped a routine fly ball in the sixth inning of a tie game. J.D. Martinez was credited with a sac fly since Kike Hernandez would have scored from third either way, but Martinez made it to first safely on the error.
A Xander Bogaerts walk put two runners on base for Rafael Devers. That’s when things got weird. Devers hit a pop fly to shallow center field. The ball hung up in the air long enough for shortstop Carlos Correa to camp under it but he dropped it!
It briefly appeared that the Red Sox were getting another gift from an Astros defensive miscue but the umpire instead called Devers out on the infield fly rule.
Wait, what?? Did the umpire not realize that the infield was the part with dirt on it? This ball was hit over 200 feet, well outside of the infield. The center fielder probably had a better chance at catching it if the back-peddling Correa wasn’t in the way.
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The infield fly rule is an umpire’s judgement call that he can make if he believes the ball could easily be handled by an infielder. By the letter of the law, the Devers pop-up seems to qualify since Correa had plenty of time to get under it, only to misjudge where it was landing when the ball got caught in the swirling winds that were wrecking havoc at Fenway all night.
This scenario completely ignores the purpose of the rule though. The infield fly rule is meant to prevent a defensive player from intentionally dropping a routine ball in an attempt to turn a sneaky double play. This wasn’t Correa’s intent, he simply dropped it. Bogaerts easily made it to second base in time despite hesitating to see if the ball would be caught and Devers could have walked to first base.
Even if the play met the criteria for when this call could be made, common sense should have told the umpire it wasn’t needed in this case.
Perhaps motivated by their outrage, the Red Sox would pile up four more runs in the inning with a pair of walks, a hit by pitch and a bases clearing double by Bobby Dalbec. The botched call against Devers cost the Red Sox at least one run while preventing a big inning from being extended further but thankfully, the offensive outburst they did get from this inning was all they needed.