BOSTON — An inning before Mike Napoli struck out with the tying and winning runs in scoring position to end the game Monday night, the Red Sox should have tied the Rays 2-2 — twice.
The eighth inning was a thorough adventure on the bases for Daniel Nava, who came in the game as a pinch runner after Ryan Lavarnway‘s double with one out. The very next batter, Stephen Drew, hit a line drive almost right over the head of right fielder Wil Myers, who looked like he had a potential play on the ball until the very last second.
Nava, however, was only able to advance to third once Drew’s ball bounced in for a double. As Nava said after the game, he was expecting a catch and already heading back to the bag, and that it was just a bad read off the bat on his part.
“I should have scored,” Nava said after the Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night. “It’s my fault and I should have scored, bad read. … I got halfway, and as I saw the ball getting closer to the wall I thought ‘Wow, it looks like he’s about to catch this ball.’ I started creeping back to second, but with one out you’ve got to keep extending, extending, because you’re trying to score, you’re not trying to get to third.”
With Nava advancing to third, however, what happened next was very much not his fault.
Brandon Snyder hit a medium-depth fly ball to left fielder Sam Fuld, who had just entered the game (and had immediately misplayed Lavarnway’s double) as a defensive replacement. With Nava tagging, Fuld unleashed a strong, accurate throw that made the play at home much closer than it should have been. As it turned out, it was too close for the Red Sox.
Nava appeared to avoid the tag of Rays catcher Jose Molina, who was on the first-base side of the plate, by going to the inside of the plate, underneath Molina’s shin guard. That wasn’t the way home plate umpire Jerry Meals saw the play, however, with Nava being called out at home.
“It was a missed call, terrible call,” Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was ejected for arguing the call, said after the game. “Clearly, the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view. Daniel Nava was safe. It’s unfortunate, we should still be playing right now.”
Nava, for his part, knew he was safe — as replays also appear to show. The outfielder said after the game that he wouldn’t have engaged in soccer-style acting if he didn’t believe he was in the right, and his emotional reaction was due to his genuine dismay at the call.
However, Nava also knows that he’s been on the other end of bad calls before, and isn’t necessarily ready to remove the human element from the game in favor of robot umpires.
“There was no doubt in my mind, I knew I was safe,” Nava said. “Obviously with the human element, there are certain elements [when instant replay gets brought up], but this was just one that most of the time they’d probably get the call right, it just went against us. It’s part of the game, and obviously if you’re on the other side, in the other locker room, you don’t really care. When you’re on this side, you care a little more.”
After the game, Meals admitted he blew the call, so give some vindication to Nava and Farrell. Not that either one of them is looking for vindication.
They’d much prefer to still be playing baseball.