10:35 PM EDT, October 4, 2013
BOSTON — By 6:15 p.m., it was the favorite chant at Fenway Park, ahead of "So good! So good!" in the eighth-inning version of "Sweet Caroline." By 6:45 p.m., yeah, it clearly had become the favorite chant in all of Boston, ahead even of "love that dirty water" after the final out of this 12-2 rout.
"My-ers! My-ers! My-ers!"
It rang in Wil Myers' ears like it does for a visiting goalie who just allowed a soft goal at TD Garden against the Bruins. We haven't heard anybody mocked this badly since the Canucks' Roberto Luongo went all-sieve in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Poor Wil got it so bad the second "L" most have fallen off his first name.
"It's tough," Myers would say Friday after the wheels had fallen off the giddiest baseball tour bus in North America. "I never have had anything like that happen before."
Myers is 22. He is one the top young players in the game. What happened to the Tampa Bay Rays right fielder in the fourth inning, however, went a long way into turning a taut game into an ALDS-opening laugher for the Red Sox. What happened in the fourth inning led the 38,177 fans to chant his name after he allowed David Ortiz's long fly ball to drop behind him for a ground-rule double. And it allowed those fans to continue all the way through the ninth.
"My-ers! My-ers! My-ers!"
It was a little bit funny. And a whole lot cruel. You commit a big gaffe in Boston, New York, Philly, and they never let you forget it. Never.
Remember when Mariano Rivera got a huge ovation on Opening Day 2005 after the Red Sox finally got to the Yankees closer on their way to ending 86 years of agony? Myers got one of those deafening mock standing ovations, too. Only he couldn't afford to smile, not yet anyway.
When asked Thursday about how the series might go, Red Sox manager John Farrell, who has been right on just about everything else this season, said, "There's going to be a play, a defensive play, inside of the game that will be a swing moment." Now we find out Big John is a prophet, too.
ESPN sent out a promotional email the other day in which its eight MLB commentators picked the best rotations, best lineup, best bullpen and best defense. Six of the eight listed the Rays as having the best defense. And it certainly might be true. Yet the fourth might well have been the worst a defense could play without being charged with an error.
"Mistakes will kill you," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We're normally not the team that makes those kind of mistakes. We made a bunch tonight."
Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes, who seemed to be in the middle of everything on this day, has plenty of postseason experience. He said he had one guarantee.
"In the playoffs, you're going to see something you haven't seen all year," he said.
That we did.
The Red Sox were in a 2-0 hole thanks to homers by Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist. This one looked like it might end 2-1, 3-2. Wrong. Matt Moore hadn't allowed a hit through three innings when Dustin Pedroia led off with a single up the middle. That's when Ortiz lifted that sky ball deep to right-center. Myers motioned off center fielder Desmond Jennings. It sure looked as if he had it, and then Myers pulled off. Jennings was nowhere near it. The ball hit the warning track and bounced into the Red Sox bullpen.
"I don't know, I don't know what happened," Jennings said.
It immediately led to speculation that someone in the bullpen had called for the ball the way Alex Rodriguez had in 2007. Sorry for bringing up A-Rod's name the day after he filed his crackpot lawsuit against Major League Baseball, but it always seems to come back to A-Rod. Anyway, A-Rod said he yelled, "Ha!" as he ran slowly past Toronto third baseman Howie Clark, who backed off and allowed the ball to drop. Shortstop John McDonald, now with the Red Sox, was so mad that he had to be restrained from going after A-Rod and manager John Gibbons called it "bush league."
The Rays and Red Sox have had their share of brawls over the years and this could have set something off, but, no, Myers said nobody in the bullpen yelled anything at him. It wasn't caused by the sun, as some Red Sox thought it could have been, either.
"It wasn't anything like that," Myers said.
So what was it?
"It was totally my fault," Myers said. "I should have taken control of the play. I was under the ball and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and I backed off. I messed it up. It won't happen again. That gave them a spark."
"Really a routine play," Maddon said. "Unfortunate."
Give the young guy credit. Myers didn't bail. He met with the media immediately. He was forthright. He could have said he heard something. He didn't. He could have made excuses. He didn't. His reward?
"My-ers! My-ers! My-ers!"
Two batters later, Gomes scraped the Wall for a two-run double. Tie score. After Moore struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew hit a dribbler to first baseman James Loney. He backhanded a throw, but Moore was a little late covering the bag and Drew was safe by a big toe. With Moore slow to react, Gomes never broke stride and scored all the way from second. Heads up. Hustle.
Will Middlebrooks raked another ball off The Wall and when it was misplayed by Rodriguez, Drew scored all the way from first base to make it 4-2. The Rays gave the Red Sox at least five outs and it only got worse when Jacoby Ellsbury struck out swinging and reached first on a passed ball by Jose Lobaton. Shane Victorino shot an RBI single to right and what easily could have been a scoreless fourth became a 5-2 Red Sox lead.
Yep, the wheels came off the Rays, who looked like they might become the first team in MLB history to win four games in a row in four different cities. They were spinning everywhere. Hubcaps flying. Sparks flying from the undercarriage. You could almost see the synapses sparking inside the brain of the "The Bespectacled Genius" Maddon. Nothing was working. The Red Sox had batted around twice in back-to-back innings for the first time in their postseason history. They were still putting runners in motion late in the game with a big lead. That will win them no sportsmanship awards, but Maddon insisted he didn't think the Red Sox tried to embarrass his team.
"I've never been one to use that term 'embarrassed,'" Maddon said. "If we are, it's our fault. I don't believe in that stuff. I know that's something that was written, I think, in 1908, and it's supposed to be adhered to the rest of your life. It is a different game now. Back in the day it took six, seven, eight singles in a row to score three or four runs. Today's ballgame there's a lot more homers and you've got the ability to score quickly in this ballpark.
"That's just one game, baby. We'll be back tomorrow, I promise you. We will not be affected mentally by this game.
"Obviously, it hurts," he said. "But the guys were right there at the dugout patting me on the back and saying to shake it off. You just have to let it go. We've got David [Price] on the mound [Saturday].
And 38,000 Fenway fans have got lungs. They figure to use them to greet him with his last name.
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