ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was the best throw Mookie Betts ever made, he acknowledged.
It happened in the bottom of the sixth inning of Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. With Ji-Man Choi on second, the Rays’ Avisail Garcia laced an RBI double down the right-field line.
But Garcia got greedy. He headed for third.
“I saw Garcia rounding second and [Mookie] had the ball already,” manager Alex Cora said afterward. “It seemed like the intention was to do that.”
Betts, from a step off the foul line in the right-field corner, let fly and hit third baseman Rafael Devers, who applied the tag.
“I’ve never seen a throw that far on the money,” Cora said. “It was a good one.”
Said Betts: “I didn’t know I could do that. It’s fun to kind of do stuff you didn’t know you could do.
“I was talking to [the Rays’] bullpen. They looked at me and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
On the hit, the bounce worked in Betts’s favor. The ball ricocheted off the wall in front of Betts, allowing him to work through it with some momentum. If it was a softer bounce, Betts wouldn’t have had that slight running start. Also, Betts shrewdly barehanded the ball, wasting no time in having to transfer the ball to his glove.
“It was kind of like Jackie [Bradley Jr.] last year against the Minnesota Twins [in June]”, Cora said. “You look and you’re like, ‘No way. Is [Garcia] actually thinking this?’ Yeah, he thought it and it will be all over the highlights all week.
“It was a great throw,” Bradley said. “I remember him doing a play like two years ago. He proved it once again he’s elite.”
The run scored by Choi on the play made it 7-4, the eventual final. The Rays have a half-game lead over the Indians for the second wild-card spot.
Red Sox starter Jhoulys Chacin worked three innings of scoreless ball, striking out four batters. That all ended in the fourth, with him holding a 4-0 lead.
Chacin struck out Tommy Pham. He then surrendered singles to Austin Meadows and Travis d’Arnaud, and, after falling behind, 2 and 0, Choi belted a three-run homer.
Chacin got Garcia to ground out for the second out, but again, he fell behind in the count. This time it was to Brandon Lowe, who sent a 3-and-1 offering into the right-field bleachers to tie the game at 4. Catcher Sandy Leon wanted the ball low and away, but Chacin missed middle in.
Cora called on Bobby Poyner, who hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch and then allowed a long two-run homer to Willy Adames, which capped the six-run inning.
J.D. Martinez recorded his 100th RBI of the season in the fourth, giving the slugger 35 homers and 100 RBIs for three consecutive seasons. If Martinez’s batting average stays above .300, he would become only the 20th player to hit .300-plus with 35-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs in three consecutive seasons. The most recent was Albert Pujols in 2010 while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
But the talk afterward was of the throw by Betts.
“There was nobody who was going to be on-base,” said Betts, who knew he was going straight through to third with the throw the entire time. “I think that was the only way there was to get him out.”