BOSTON - Wednesday’s game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays seemed like pretty standard fare for a match between division rivals who are jockeying for position in the American League playoff picture. Charlie Morton squared off against David Price as the game began with a two-run single from Rafael Devers that scored Brock Holt and Mookie Betts. A home run from Tommy Pham and RBI hits from Joey Wendle and Guillermo Heredia gave the Rays a 3-2 lead that turned into an eventual victory. Seems like a pretty average game, right? Well, not quite.
The 3-2 game was immediately overshadowed by the invoking and confusion of the MLB rulebook that has now led Boston to protest the outcome of the game. But this is not the case of a sore loser throwing a temper tantrum that he lost. It seems like, in this instance, manager Alex Cora actually has a pretty solid leg to stand on.
In the eighth inning, Rays pitcher Adam Kolarek got the first out and was then swapped to first base by manager Kevin Cash. Then, when there were two outs in the inning, Cash moved Kolarek back to the pitcher’s mound, in order to face Devers in the inning. Kolarek’s replacement at first base, Nate Lowe, was in the ninth spot of the batting order, but when Cash announced that Kolarek was taking a new position, he said that he was slotting in for Austin Meadows, the designated hitter batting third, instead. The substitutions and confusion around the designated hitter position was what led to the Red Sox playing the game under protest.
Cora says this is an illegal substitution, which is what it seems like to me, as well. Unless I'm missing something obvious (or, let’s be honest, an extremely obscure rule), players already in the game cannot bounce around the lineup in whatever fashion a manager chooses. During the game, play stopped for about 20 minutes while the umpires attempted to sort out the confusion. Honestly, it’s still not entirely sorted.
Regardless of the decision, it remains rather unlikely that any changes to the outcome of the game will come to fruition because of how rare it is for baseball game protests to actually be upheld. Only one game has experienced this in the twenty-first century and it came back in 2014 when the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs experienced an unconventional rain delay.