BOSTON — No one could remember a play quite like it, but the oldest ballpark in America was ready for it, and Red Sox wound up needing it.
In the top of the second inning on Wednesday, Royals center fielder Kyle Isbel lined a ball toward the Green Monster, where Red Sox left fielder Masataka Yoshida tried to make a leaping catch at the warning track. He missed it, which left him as confused as everyone else in the stadium after he landed.
“I realized I missed catching the ball,” Yoshida said through his translator. “After that I tried to find the ball, but there was nowhere else (it could be), so that was a surprise.”
The ball had shattered the red plastic covering over one of the OUT lights in the Green Monster scoreboard. Not only had it broken the plastic covering, the ball had become stuck in the light fixture itself.
Even radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione said on air that he’d never seen it in 41 years calling Red Sox games.
The ball got stuck inside the lights in the Green Monster 🤯 pic.twitter.com/YlGZVJlROl
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) August 9, 2023
Quirky as it was, seven innings later, it actually mattered.
The play was ruled a ground-rule double, which kept Matt Duffy from scoring, and Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta got the next batter out to strand both runners. The one run wound up being the difference in a 4-3 Red Sox win.
“It reminds me of the hit that (Kevin) Kiermaier got in ’21 in the playoffs,” Pivetta said. “So, I thought it was kind of a lucky break, to be honest with you.”
Pivetta was on the mound in the 2021 division series when Kiermaier hit a ball that went off the right-field wall, bounced, then ricocheted off Hunter Renfroe and over the fence. That too was ruled a ground-rule double.
But not like this one.
According to Statcast, Isbel’s ball had a 30 percent chance of being an out, but the Monster being so close adds a unique element to the play. When Yoshida jumped and the ball didn’t clank off the wall and into the field, the only logical explanation was that he’d caught it.
“I didn’t see the ball, like where it went after, so I was like, ‘Oh, he caught it!’” right fielder Alex Verdugo said. “Then he started looking around (for the ball) and I was like, ‘Uhhh? OK.’”
The best clue for what really happened was a small bright spot in the now partially exposed light. The ball had broken through the plastic covering, exposing the bulb, and the ball sat nestled into the light fixture. Yoshida himself pulled it out.
The broken light on the Green Monster has already been fixed.
My next piece in The Athletic will be an oral history of some guy’s frantic, mid-game trip to Home Depot.
— Chad Jennings (@chadjennings22) August 10, 2023
Within two innings, the light was fixed. And it was fixed exactly the way you’d expect it to be fixed.
“There’s not much to it,” a team spokesman said. “They have spares handy and a guy replaced it.”
Easy enough. A quick fix for a play few if any had ever seen in this ballpark.
“I’ve never seen that, not even in BP,” manager Alex Cora said. “We go over the rules (before first pitch), and they always talk about, ‘If the ball gets stuck in the Monster…’ I’m like, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ Today it did.”
(Top photo of Masataka Yoshida showing the ball that broke the light: AP Photo / Charles Krupa)