Red Sox center fielder injured on wild pursuit of White Sox Abreu's drive
By Alec Shirkey
BOSTON -- Few are the times a player goes over the outfield wall to make a catch, but Tuesday night provided baseball fans with an even rarer highlight: A home run that took a player out of the park with it.
What was nearly an amazing catch by Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts became a wild two-run blast for White Sox slugger Jose Abreu in a 9-4 Chicago win at Fenway Park. And had it not been for the replay review system Major League Baseball instituted last season, the near-catch might have gone down as Betts' best yet, even though it took him out of the game with a potential concussion.
In the sixth inning, Abreu smacked a first-pitch fastball to right-center field that Betts gathered in his glove just before leaping into the short wall and tumbling into the Boston bullpen. Although originally ruled an out, television replay showed the ball rolling out of Betts' glove as he landed on his upper back near the base of his neck. White Sox manager Robin Ventura challenged, and the call was overturned following a lengthy review.
Betts, who was tracked by Statcast™ at a top speed of 18.9 mph, had to leave the game after his hard landing on the play.
"The umpires saw the replay, and they called it," Abreu said. "I don't have anything more to say. It was a rule."
The rule was 5.09 (a), and the pertinent portion reads as follows:
"... It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. ... In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. ... "
Crew chief and second-base umpire Bill Miller issued a statement on the ruling after the game, and described the play almost as a football referee might have:
"[Betts] had the ball in his glove. He went up against the wall and it disappeared. In our estimation, that's a catch, because we never saw the ball come out.
"We went to replay, Robin Ventura asked us to go to replay, and replay told us it was a home run.
"The wording we use is he has to have 'control of his body.' In this case, we couldn't tell if the ball was on the ground on the other side of the fence or not, and so that's why we went to replay. They determined he didn't have control of his body when he hit the fence and the ball popped out."
Abreu's two-run homer gave the White Sox a 7-2 lead and chased Red Sox starter Wade Miley after 5 2/3 innings.
"That's an unbelievable effort Mookie just gave to try to go run that ball down," Miley said. "That's kind of how he plays. He's going to give you everything he's got every out. Unfortunately, it didn't go for us. I thought he made an unbelievable play, whatever the rule states. It is what it is. But hats off to Mookie for the effort."
Betts had to be helped up by his teammates and was slow to walk back to the Red Sox dugout as Rusney Castillo replaced him in center field.
Betts exhibited the symptoms of a concussion after being taken into the clubhouse to undergo MLB's concussion testing protocol, according to Boston manager John Farrell.
Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson saw the play up close while he was warming up in the bullpen. A difference of inches, he said, could have swung gravity in Boston's favor.
"I've never seen it finish where he drops the ball, because we never had the camera angle to see if he dropped the ball or not," Masterson said. "So I don't know if I've seen a guy fall over and drop it. But I don't think most guys when they tumble over the wall -- it doesn't happen very often, for one -- and two, just the way he landed.
"He kind of caught the feet on it. If he had been able to just somehow get a little bit more side, it would still hurt like the dickens, but it might not have been in such a vulnerable spot. He saw the wall and was like, 'Uh oh, I'm about to smash into the wall.'"
As for Abreu, who extended his hitting streak to eight games with a three-hit performance, the ruling left him plenty satisfied.
"No, [I've never seen that] in my life," he said. "But it's welcome."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.