Boston Red Sox

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 10: Manager Kevin Cash #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays talks to umpires after Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays hit a ground rule double in the 13th inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Umpire Sam Holbrook’s crew went by the rule book when it came to the Kevin Kiermaier ground-rule double that kept Yandy Diaz from scoring the would-be go-ahead run in the top of the 13th in Boston’s Game 3 victory at Fenway Park.

“It’s in the rule book: It’s a ground-rule double ” Holbrook, seated alongside Charlie Reliford in a rare umpire press conference, said after the 13-inning thriller at Fenway Park. “There’s no discretion that the umpires have.”

And in case you didn’t believe him, Holbrook had an umpire manual handy.

“This is our umpire manual, and what I’d like to do it just quote from the manual. It’s item 20 in the manual, which is, balls deflected out of play, which is in reference to official baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(H). It says, ‘If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch.’

“So in this play right here, the ball was no longer in flight because it hit the front part of the wall. So you cannot catch the ball off the wall. The wall is basically an extension of the playing field, the front part of the wall is. So once that ball hit the wall, it was no longer in flight. Now the ball bounces off the wall and is deflected out of play off of a fielder, that’s just a ground-rule double. There’s no, he would have done this [or] would have done that. It’s just flat out in the rule book: it’s a ground-rule double.”

The ruling didn’t come with any sort of disagreement among the umpiring crew, as they all saw a wall-ball bounce off Hunter Renfroe and over the right field wall and into the Boston bullpen. No member of the crew saw anything intentional from Renfroe, though they were more than happy to take an extra look at the entire sequence when Rays manager Kevin Cash came out to ask them ‘what he could do’ in regards to challenging the call on the field.

“Obviously, it’s a high-priority game, high-priority situation, and we want to make sure that we get everything right,” Holbrook admitted. “So that’s what we went to replay just to make sure that, one, nothing was done intentional by the fielder. If that were the case, that’s a different aspect of that rule. If it was intentionally kicked out, then it would have been from the time that the deflection, the intentional deflection happened, two bases from that time.

“So we went and looked at it, and they confirmed that it was just a ball off the wall, hit the fielder, and deflected out of play. Very simple. From an umpire’s standpoint, very simple textbook in the rule.”

Simple enough.

It’s absolutely a bad break for the Rays, of course, as Diaz most definitely would’ve scored from first had the ball remained in play.

But a bad break is a bad break (and the Rays previously found themselves on the favorable side of this kind of call), and you can count Holbrook as an umpire more than happy by leaving the rule as ‘simple’ as possible.

“I like it,” Holbrook said of the current rule. “It’s cut-and-dry from an umpire’s standpoint. It’s been that way ever since I came in the game. I don’t see any need to change it.”

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.