USATSI_16697766

Sep 6, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) bats against the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

So this is why we call them the Rays — they work with the sun!

Tampa Bay benefited from the sun’s glare at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon, along with some glaring mistakes made by the Red Sox on defense. The Rays came away with four runs on a “Little League grand slam” after slugger Nelson Cruz hit what’s typically a routine fly ball to center field.

The circumstances cost Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who appeared set to get away clean after loading the bases with two outs in the fourth inning. Up stepped Cruz, who hit a fly ball 370 feet to center, where Verdugo — wearing wraparound sunglasses — shielded his eyes with his glove hand, ducked his head and reached in vain for the ball, which glanced off the edge of his glove before it hit the ground and rolled to the fence in front of the Fenway bullpens. Three runs scored easily, and Cruz followed them home after second baseman Taylor Motter made an ill-advised and poorly aimed relay throw that went out of play and into the third-base camera well.

Instead of a six-run lead, the Red Sox led by only two. The mayhem also was a sign of things to come. The Rays came back to win 11-10 in 10 innings, with Boston making four errors total. Tampa also issued a balk intentionally because, apparently, the Rays feared the Red Sox would steal their signs. The game was “a whole lot of weird,” as NESN put it.

At first, Cruz’s hit was called a triple, which would have been his second of the season and 15th of his career, but the official scorer changed it to an error. Players who lose the ball in the sun or lights typically don’t get charged with an error, but it’s not unprecedented. Neither manager agreed with the decision.

“I don’t see how they do that,” Rays skipper Kevin Cash said. “That’s a triple. He’s dealing with sunlight.”

Cash also praised, sort of, Cruz’s hustle to third that provoked a rushed throw by Motter.

“I think Nellie sometimes thinks he’s invisible out there — I’m not exactly sure what he’s doing,” Cash said. “But we’ll take it.”

Sale predictably didn’t care about gaining unearned runs, which helped put his ERA back into shape. He said the Red Sox have to step up their defense.

Cruz also hit a conventional home run over the Green Monster and was responsible for pushing across the go-ahead run in extras. Wander Franco went 4-for-6, extending his on-base streak to 36 games, seven short of Frank Robinson’s MLB record in 1956 for players under 21 years old. Not to be ignored, Austin Meadows hit an inside-the-park home run to tie the score in the top of the ninth.

Cash praised the decision by coach Rodney Linares to send Meadows, along with Meadows’ awareness and hustle.

The Rays improved to 87-51 and are now 10 games in the loss column better than the Red Sox, who are just one or two games in the loss column ahead of their three closest competitors for the second AL wild card.

Featured Podcast

See all