BOSTON — It took 16 innings — and nearly six hours from Chris Sale‘s first pitch to Ben Heller‘s last — but the Boston Red Sox finally lost to the New York Yankees 4-1 on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Or did they?
The Red Sox played the game under protest after a bizarre play in the top of the 11th inning in which a Yankees baserunner essentially slid back into first base on a ground ball rather than getting forced out at second.
With the game tied 1-1, Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday drew a leadoff walk in the 11th. Jacoby Ellsbury chopped a grounder to Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland, who fielded the ball and threw to second.
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That’s when Holliday slid feet-first back into first base, even though it was about to be occupied by Ellsbury.
“I wasn’t going to run into a tag,” Holliday said later.
But the Red Sox contended that Holliday also interfered with Moreland’s ability to catch a return throw from shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who was trying to complete a double play. The ball eluded Moreland, hit Ellsbury and caromed into foul territory. Ellsbury was called safe at first base.
Red Sox manager John Farrell asked for video replay. The umpires called New York for what crew chief Gary Cederstrom referred to as a “rules check,” which is different from reviewing the play. And after a nearly five-minute consultation, the original calls stood: Holliday was out at second base, but Ellsbury was safe at first.
“[Farrell] wanted [Holliday, and by extension, Ellsbury] called out for interference running the bases,” Cederstrom told The Associated Press, “and we told him, ‘No, we can’t.'”
Said Farrell: “I didn’t get an explanation. My view was that it was interference, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. That’s why I protested the game. But there was, after repeated conversation with New York, it was brought back to me that they weren’t going to change the play, and the play stood with no explanation.”
Red Sox reliever Robby Scott retired the next two batters, and the inning ended without a run scoring. The Yankees didn’t win until the 16th inning when they notched four consecutive hits and two sacrifice flies against Red Sox right-hander Doug Fister.
The game also featured another stellar performance from Sale, who struck out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings. It was his 13th double-digit strikeout game of the season. The only Red Sox pitcher with more was Pedro Martinez (19 in 1999 and 15 in 2000), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
As for the Red Sox’s protest, it is in the hands of Major League Baseball to determine whether the call was incorrect. But league rules also stipulate that a game will not be replayed “unless it is also determined that the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning.”
It seems unlikely MLB would uphold the Red Sox’s protest, although Farrell remained hopeful.
“It’s on record,” Farrell said. “So how that’s determined remains to be seen.”