Fluky plays were the norm Tuesday night in Houston.
A ground ball off the bat of Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts deflected off the shoe of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, turning a surefire single into an easy double.
Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts accidentally made contact on a check-swing attempt, and the result was an excuse-me double that scored two runs.
Altuve dribbled an infield single that stayed within centimeters of foul territory all the way to the third base bag.
But of all these quirky baseball occurrences, by far the most pivotal came during the fifth inning of Boston’s eventual 8-3 loss.
The Red Sox led 3-1 at the time, and Jake Marisnick, Houston’s No. 9 hitter, had just grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out and rookie left-hander Brian Johnson on the mound. Johnson, who was making his major league debut, had had issues holding on runners up to that point, so after two halfhearted pickoff attempts, Marisnick took off.
“That was a little bit of a surprise tonight, with the throws to first base,” manager John Farrell told reporters after the game, as aired on “Red Sox Extra Innings LIVE.” “And obviously quickly they looked to take advantage of that.”
As the speedy center fielder bolted toward second, Johnson threw high to the plate. Catcher Ryan Hanigan’s relay to second, which was aimed at Bogaerts’ glove, instead made contact with Marisnick’s forearm and squirted into left-center field.
The man on third, designated hitter Chris Carter, scored with ease, and when left fielder Hanley Ramirez was late corralling the ball, Marisnick raced all the way home, as well.
“A quirky play at second base where we’re trying to cut down a baserunner, goes off his (forearm) for two runs, which is — that’s an uncommon play,” Farrell told reporters.
Indeed, an uncommon play that changed the complexion of the game. Before the fifth inning, Johnson, who’d walked three through the first two frames, had settled down. He retired the side in order both the third and the fourth — striking out Houston’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3 hitters in the former.
But after Marisnick’s run tied the game, it was all Astros. Houston chased Johnson one batter later, then roughed up reliever Justin Masterson for four runs (one of which was charged to Johnson) in 1 1/3 innings to all but put the game away.
“I rushed it a little bit,” Hanigan said of his failed attempt to nab Marisnick at second. “It kind of tailed on me. Unfortunately, it hit the runner and took off to the left, and they both scored. It was kind of a tough play momentum-wise for that game, because we were in control of the game until that happened. But that’s not on Brian. That’s on me. He pitched a pretty solid game.”
Johnson — who, thanks to yet another quirk, this one in the schedule, was pitching on 15 days’ rest — went 4 1/3 innings in his first taste of major league action, allowing four runs on three hits while striking out three and walking four. After the game, the 24-year-old chose to praise Hanigan for his help rather than lamenting the catcher’s costly throw.
“It’s baseball,” he told reporters. “It happens. It’s OK. Hanigan caught a great game, and he really, really helped me out. I don’t think I would have had such a good game plan going into it without him. … So, it’s going to happen every once in a while.”
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images
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