Daniel Nava had committed an egregious mistake minutes before, failing to score from second base on a ball teammate Stephen Drew lined over the head of the right fielder.
But Nava atoned, sliding across the plate after a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday night for the Red Sox. A tense game against the Tampa Bay Rays was tied.
“There was no doubt. I knew I was safe,” Nava said.
“He was safe,” Dustin Pedroia said.
“Daniel Nava clearly was safe,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Only he wasn’t. Umpire Jerry Meals called Nava out and it led to a 2-1 loss several Red Sox players said was the most maddening of the season.
Instead of extending their lead on the Rays in the American League East, the Sox dropped back into second place by a half-game.
“It’s frustrating. We’re grinding away. That’s basically it,” Pedroia said.
With Nava at third and one out, Brandon Snyder hit a fly ball to left-center. The throw from left fielder Sam Fuld was to the first base side of the plate and catcher Jose Molina had to bring his glove back to tag Nava.
Nava’s left leg got under the tag and touched the plate. But Meals, who was out of position behind Molina, called Nava out and the inning was over.
Meals admitted to a pool reporter that he blew the call.
“Molina blocked the plate and Nava’s foot lifted. But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava’s foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision,” he said. “From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
Nava threw his helmet. Third base coach Brian Butterfield raced to the plate and Farrell was swiftly ejected in the argument that followed.
“It was a missed call. A terrible call,” Farrell said. “Clearly the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view . . . He was blocked out of the play. You see the reaction of the base runner. They tell you everything.”
Even Red Sox owner John Henry weighed in on the missed call with a rare post on Twitter.
“A 2-game swing,” he wrote.
But the tying run would have scored without any call to make had Nava run the bases properly earlier in the inning.
Tampa Bay ace David Price dominated the Sox for seven innings, allowing one run on two hits and striking out seven. When the game was delayed for 39 minutes at the start of the eighth inning, Price came back to the mound leading, 2-1.
Price needed eight pitches to strike out Jonny Gomes, coming back from a 3-and-0 count. Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t like what he saw and called in Joel Peralta.
Ryan Lavarnway doubled off the wall in left and was replaced by Nava. Farrell had the much faster Jose Iglesias available off the bench but wanted to save him for a potential double switch later in the game.
Drew followed with a line drive to right field, a shot that was clearly over the head of Wil Myers.
Nava should have scored easily, but he misread the ball and was starting back toward second base when it landed. He had to stop at third.
“I should have scored. It’s my fault. Bad read,” Nava said. “It happens.”
Farrell offered no excuses for his player.
“Just kind of misread at that point,” he said. “You’re schooled if the ball is not caught to be in a position to be able to score. Unfortunately at that point, Nava’s momentum had him going back to second base.”
Farrell said Nava should have waited longer before reacting.
“I thought he was about to catch the ball. I started to creep back to second,” Nava said. “With one out, you have to keep extending. I told myself that a second before.”
Nava said he had a good view of the ball Drew hit and should have been able to judge the trajectory.
“I should have had that read but I didn’t,” he said.
It was the second poor decision by Nava on the bases in a span of 10 days. On July 20, he tried to tag up from first on a foul pop to Yankees catcher Chris Stewart and was thrown out to end the eighth inning of a 5-2 loss.
Against Rays closer Fernando Rodney, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning. Shane Victorino failed to get a bunt down, then lined softly to second. Ellsbury stole second before a slumping Pedroia (3 for his last 39) grounded out.
The Rays walked David Ortiz to get to Mike Napoli. With Iglesias running for Ortiz, a wild pitch moved the runners up. But Rodney struck out Napoli swinging at a full-count changeup.
It was the second win for Price against the Red Sox in five days. Over the two games, he allowed two runs over 16⅓ innings. The lefthander is 6-1 with a 1.88 earned run average in 10 career starts at Fenway.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (7-5) was erratic, throwing 104 pitches over five innings and allowing two runs on eight hits.
The Sox are 5-5 since the All-Star break.
“Human error is part of the game. It happens,” Victorino said. “When you battle and something like that happens, you all get frustrated . . . But I know this team. We’ll bounce back.”