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There goes the neighborhood: Key play in Red Sox loss explained

08.17.14 at 6:05 pm ET
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Something seemed amiss as the play unfolded.

With one out in the top of the second inning, the Astros had taken a 2-0 lead over the Red Sox and were threatening to add on, but Marwin Gonzalez grounded a ball back up the middle that deflected off the glove of pitcher Joe Kelly and right to shortstop Xander Bogaerts. It was a tailor made double play, with Bogaerts only having to cross the bag and then fire to first.

The 21-year-old did just that, but he released the ball about a half step before he arrived at second base. On the field, the play was ruled a double play, though Bogaerts seemed uncertain, turning back towards second initially before making another half-turn and jogging off the field with his teammates.

“I knew right away once I let that ball go I stepped after,” said Bogaerts. “It’€™s something I knew I messed up right there but hopefully the umpires would not do the replay and we would’€™ve got the double play. I knew right away.”

Yet even as Houston manager Bo Porter jogged on the field to consult with the umpiring crew, it was unclear whether the call could be overturned. The “neighborhood play,” in which a middle infielder at second base on a double play pivot comes off the bag early to avoid an onrushing runner, was deemed something that was not subject to review while replay was implemented this spring. The umpiring crew wasn’t certain. 

“Actually, we have not had that play per se where the shortstop or the second baseman go right to the bag on their own,” umpiring crew chief Jim Joyce told a pool reporter. “So, just to make everything clear, I explained to Bo that I was going to ask New York, the replay center, if it was in fact reviewable because a neighborhood play is not. New York came back to me and said, ‘Yes, that play is reviewable,’ and I came back to them and said, ‘OK, Houston is challenging that play,’ and that was the outcome.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell was not pleased by that determination, which led to an inevitable outcome of Marc Krauss being safe at second, and the inning proceeding with runners on second and third and two outs. That prolonged the frame for Kelly to issue a walk to Robbie Grossman in front of a grand slam by Jose Altuve.

“My initial explanation on the field was that the front end of a double play was a non-reviewable play and my interpretation is that the neighborhood play should not be dependent on the feed throw or not. A neighborhood play is not a reviewable play,” said Farrell. “Unfortunately, [Bogaerts] releases the ball right prior to touching the bag. But to me, he’s releasing the ball at a time to avoid the runner that’s bearing down on him, which, again, the rule is in place to protect the middle infielder, the neighborhood play.

“We forced a couple of extra outs in the inning. Any time you do that, you’re asking for trouble,” added Farrell. “On a day when Joe scuffled with his command, the walks contributed and then fastball that leaked back to the inside half to Altuve, who had a great day. It compounds things. After that, I went too far with my reaction.”

Farrell endured his third ejection of the year while letting the umpires know what he thought of the decision to review the play, while Bogaerts was deflated while watching the Astros jump up 6-0 en route to their 8-1 win.

“You can’€™t be able to review the neighborhood play right? But they did and that call was made on their side,” said Bogaerts. “After, Altuve came up and hit it, and it’€™s the worst feeling there.”

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