Meals' blown call costs Sox dearly in 2-1 loss

Meals' blown call costs Sox dearly in 2-1 loss
July 30, 2013, 12:15 am
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BOSTON -- In the end, the Baseball Gods trumped Mother Nature.

As the skies opened up at the very beginning of the bottom of the eighth inning at Fenway Park on Monday night, David Price's potential complete game looked to be in jeopardy.

Price had thrown 82 pitches over the first seven innings, allowing just one run and only two base runners. The lefty was cruising, on pace to go the distance for the second time in less than a week at Fenway.

But after a 39-minute rain delay it was clear Price didn't have his previously unhittable stuff, even after striking out Jonny Gomes to begin the eighth after the rain delay. Rays manager Joe Maddon wasted no time taking him out of the game after just 90 pitches and a 2-1 lead.

Mother Nature had given the Red Sox a chance.

"We might have caught a little break with the rain delay, to come out and put together a little bit of an inning in the eighth," said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game.

And put on an inning they did.

The Red Sox got to Price's replacement -- righty Joel Peralta -- immediately. Ryan Lavarnway got it started with a line-drive double off the Monster.

Daniel Nava was sent in to pinch-run instead of the speedier Jose Iglesias because, explained Farrell, a double-switch was still an option. He wanted to have Nava's left-handed bat in the lineup against a potential right-handed pitcher for later innings if the Sox tied the game.

But Nava made a crucial mistake in the very next at-bat.

Stephen Drew ripped a hard-hit double over the head of Rays right fielder Wil Myers. But before it dropped in, Nava - who had gone halfway to third -- started going back to second, as if he thought Myers was going to make the catch.

"II just didn't read it right," said a rueful Nava afterward.

So when the ball fell in, Nava was near the second-base bag. Because of that, third-base coach Brian Butterfield had to hold him at third, leaving runners at second and third with one out and the Sox still trailing 2-1.

"He got halfway, which, with one out, you're hopeful to go halfway," said Farrell. "And then as he saw Myers going back on the ball, I think he anticipated an over-the-shoulder catch. So he started to make ground back to second base. And after the ball hit the wall, he didn't have enough momentum to attempt to score there. So just kind of a misread at that point on the deep fly ball to right.

"You're schooled to -- if the ball is not caught -- to score, to be in a position to be able to score," added Farrell. "And unfortunately, at that point, his momentum had him going back to second base, once he read that the ball wasn't caught."

Nava said he just misread it, but realizes he made a crucial mistake.

"Yeah, I thought for a second there, 'Wow, it looks like he's about to catch the ball,' and I started creeping back," said Nava. "Hey, I shouldn't have had that read, but I did."

Still, the Red Sox had a chance to at least tie the game.

But the Baseball Gods now turned against them in the person of home-plate umpire Jerry Meals.

Brandon Snyder flied out to Sam Fuld in left-center for the second out of the inning, and Nava tagged at third to try and score.

Fuld's throw was a seed, but it ended up to the first-base side of the plate. Nava came in with a hard slide, and Jose Molina caught the ball and quickly attempted to block the plate.

Meals was standing to the right of the plate, his view of the play blocked by Molina. He called Nava out . . . but the replays clearly showed that Nava got his foot in before the tag.

A furious Nava hopped up and began arguing instantly. Farrell came out, continued the argument, and was eventually ejected. And the fans, seeing the replay over and over on the in-stadium television monitors that are now attached to every grandstand pole, showered Meals with boos.

"It was a missed call, a terrible call," said Farrell. "Clearly the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view. Daniel Nava clearly was safe. It's unfortunate. We should still be playing right now.

"When you consider the reaction, and what I saw from my angle, Molina was on the first-base side of the plate, and knowing that the runner can get to that front edge, and seeing where Jerry was in relation to the play to make the call, he was blocked out of the play," added Farrell. "You see the reaction of the base runner. They tell you everything."

Nava threw his helmet in disgust after continuously pointing down at the spot of the plate that his foot touched before he was tagged.

Both Farrell and Nava said that Meals didn't have much to say to them as they argued the call. But after the game, and after the Red Sox lost 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays, knocking Boston down to second place in the division, Meals admitted he made the wrong call.

"What I saw was: Molina blocked the plate and Nava's foot lifted," said Meals. "But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava's foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina's shin guard."

But it did. That's why Nava reacted the way he did.

"There was no doubt, I knew I was safe," said Nava. "I wouldn't try and sell it if I [was out]. On replays you see that I was safe. So, I knew I was safe.

"But I probably should have [scored] in the at-bat before."

He's right. He should have scored from second base with one out, on Drew's double to deep right field.

Of course, none of this probably would have happened, had the skies not opened up on Price to begin the inning.

Score one for the Baseball Gods.