As sequels go this was on its way to being as good as “The Empire Strikes Back” almost as riveting as “The Godfather Part II.”
Instead it turned into the Jerry Meals Show.
Facing the Red Sox in Fenway Park for the second time in five nights Rays ace David Price breezed through seven innings sat through a 39-minute rain delay and returned to strike out Jonny Gomes to open the eighth. That’s when he yielded the mound and the Red Sox nearly won the game.
But pinch-runner Daniel Nava was unable to score first because he made a bad read on Stephen Drew’s double to right field and later because he was incorrectly called out by Meals on a play at the plate in which he clearly got his foot underneath Rays catcher Jose Molina’s tag.
Add it all up and the Rays nudged their way back into first place with a cuticle-chomping 2-1 victory that left the Red Sox griping and Meals admitting his mistake.
“I was wrong on my decision” the home plate umpire said of what ejected Red Sox manager John Farrell labeled a “terrible call” and caused the usually mild-mannered Nava to launch a furious protest. “From the angle I had I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
Said Nava “There was no doubt I knew I was safe. I wouldn’t try to sell it. On replays you’d see I was safe. I knew I was safe. At the same time I probably should’ve been there the at-bat before.”
OK let’s pause here. Through seven innings Price threw only 82 pitches and allowed only two hits including Brandon Snyder’s bloop homer off Pesky’s Pole in the sixth. And he was only getting stronger too having retired the heart of the Red Sox order — Dustin Pedroia David Ortiz and Mike Napoli — on 10 pitches in the seventh.
But despite returning after the delay Price was lifted by manager Joe Maddon with one out in the eighth and Ryan Lavarnway greeted reliever Joel Peralta with a Wall double. Pinch-running for Lavarnway Nava went halfway to third base then began retreating to second when Drew’s double soared over right fielder Wil Myers’ head.
Rather than scoring the tying run he was held up by third base coach Brian Butterfield.