BOSTON - David Ortiz hit one of his familiar mile-high fly balls that was deep but not deep enough, and right fielder Wil Myers was drifting across the warning track in front of the Boston bullpen to make the catch.
Ortiz was so certain he was about to be the first out of the fourth inning he nearly slowed his jog to a walk. Dustin Pedroia, bouncing between first and second base, started bouncing back to first.
Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore, who delivered the pitch, stopped his backpedal toward home plate and was about to return to the mound.
Then Game 1 of the American League Division Series took a mind-boggling twist. Myers, who had waved off center fielder Desmond Jennings, abruptly took a few steps forward when he saw Jennings out of the corner of his eye, and the ball fell safely on the warning track and bounced into the bullpen.
It was the start of a bad stretch for the Rays that didn’t end until the Red Sox scored five times to take the lead and grab the momentum that carried them to a 12-2 victory Friday at Fenway Park.
“I messed it up,” Myers said. “I should have made the play.”
The Rays led 2-0 at the time. It was 5-2 Red Sox before Moore got the final out of the inning.
The Rays, so crisp on defense this week while winning the two games that carried them to Boston, came apart that inning.
Stephen Drew beat Moore to first base on a grounder to James Loney that kept the inning alive. Moore appeared to strike out Jacoby Ellsbury three batters later to end the inning, but the ball sailed past catcher Jose Lobaton and Ellsbury was safe at first.
Both miscues led to runs. So did run-scoring doubles off the giant left-field wall by Jonny Gomes and Will Middlebrooks.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Fortunately it was not one of those one-and-done kind of games. We’ve been playing very well. We’ve not been making any mistakes. We made a bunch (Friday).”
The Red Sox reached Moore for eight hits and seven earned runs (eight total) in 41/3 innings to take the lead in this best-of-five series that continues late this afternoon with Game 2.
Myers said he felt the momentum switch after he failed to make the catch.
Moore said he shouldn’t have let that happen.
“There’s going to be things that happen throughout the course of the game that don’t particularly go your way, and obviously that one didn’t,” Moore said. “I have to be better than five runs after that. Regardless of no outs or two outs, I have to be better in that inning than five runs, regardless.”
Boston lefty Jon Lester allowed only three hits in 72/3 innings but trailed 2-0 after solo home runs by Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist.
Moore didn’t allow a hit until Pedroia singled to open the fourth. That brought Ortiz to the plate, and the designated hitter got just under a pitch, lifting the ball high into the gray-blue sky.
“I waved Desmond off, I called the ball,” Myers said. “It was loud out there, so I hand-motioned I had the ball. I was under the ball, and I saw Dez out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was a loud crowd, and that was totally my fault.”
Pedroia ran to third as Moore stood on the grass near home plate, his mouth open in disbelief. In the dugout, Maddon stood with his hands out, palms facing up, wondering what the heck happened.
“Really a routine play,” Maddon said.
No one in the Red Sox bullpen said anything, Myers said, and he wasn’t distracted by the crowd.
He just thought he should give way to Jennings, who, as the center fielder, has the right-of-way to any fly ball.
“I should have taken more charge out there and just caught the ball,” Myers said.
While the Rays still had their 2-0 lead, the Red Sox had runners at second and third and were ready to make the Rays pay.
“One thing you can guarantee in the playoffs is you’re going to see something you haven’t seen all year,” Gomes said.
The former Ray hustled home from second on Drew’s infield single to give the Red Sox the lead, and the rout was on.
Boston fans serenaded Myers with chants of “My-errrs, My-errrs, My-errrs” throughout the day as they enjoyed their first postseason game since 2009.
The Rays, playing their fourth game in their fourth city in six days, couldn’t get back in the game.
“I think it’s just a bad day,” Lobaton said. “We’ve been playing pretty good. Team’s doing a pretty good job. Just in that moment, we had a bad inning, and after that we were a little bit down. We’ve just got to think about that and get ready for (today).”