It seems every team has had at least one beef with the new expanded replay system, which is to be expected in its first season of use. However, no team has had more bad luck with expanded replay than the Boston Red Sox, and that unfortunate trend continued in Friday night's 5-3 loss to the Houston Astros as manager John Farrell ended up losing two challenges on one wild play.
With Boston clinging to a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, Houston mounted a threat with runners at first and second and two outs. The batter, Matt Dominguez, hit a humpback liner into an awkward spot that forced shortstop Xander Bogaerts to wait back and field it on a hop. That little bit of hesitation coupled with a less than smooth glove-to-hand exchange allowed Dexter Fowler, who was running from first, to beat Bogaerts' underhand toss to Dustin Pedroia by an eyelash.
Second base umpire Pat Hoberg was right there to make the call, ruling Fowler safe.
Meanwhile, pinch-runner Gregorio Petit never stopped running. He rounded third and headed for home, but appeared dead to rights as the always aware Pedroia fired home to catcher Christian Vazquez. However, Vazquez came up too far to take the throw, which allowed Petit a path to the plate. Knowing he was out of the play, Vazquez flipped to pitcher Burke Badenhop, who stepped in to cover the plate. He ended up dropping the ball, and with a quick change-of-direction, Petit was able to get around him and brush the plate with his hand.
Again, at home plate Cory Blaser was there to make the call, ruling Petit safe.
It was a chaotic play fueled by the collective hustle of Fowler and Petit. Both calls were close enough that it was worth Farrell's time to challenge, even on the outside hope that one might go his way. Unfortunately, neither did. Both calls were upheld, which meant the inning continued and the game was tied. Houston would go on to win in 10 innings.
"I thought initially, I didn't know that Petit got the plate from our vantage point in the dugout," Farrell said. "And then with the ability to challenge the entire play, that's where the look at second base is included in that."
If there's a silver lining for Farrell, it's that both calls appeared to be correct. So while his bad replay luck surely continues, at least this time it doesn't look like highway robbery.
If there's a silver lining for all of us, it's that Badenhop dropped the ball, not leaving open the possibility of Rule 7.13 popping up again. We've had about all we can handle of that for one week.
All of that said, when we take a step back and analyze the situation thoroughly, we shouldn't be surprised that Boston ended up on the wrong side of that key play and ultimately the scoreboard. It was Ben Affleck's birthday, after all, and according to Cut 4, his beloved Red Sox still haven't won on his birthday since 1997.
With a couple off days mixed in, that adds up to a 15-game losing streak on Aug. 15.
Of course, we at the Stew don't believe in curses, but the aptly named Curse of the Ben-bino sure makes for interesting conversation.
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