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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Rays' Myers hears it over freaky Friday mishap


He'll probably be American League Rookie of the Year. The vote is announced after the season. The Rays aren't in the postseason without 22-year-old Wil Myers and his bat. He was named AL rookie of the month for September.

This is October.


The serenade began in the fourth inning. Fenway Park's sellout crowd crooned Wil Myers' last name, on and on, for the rest of the game, when he came to bat, or stood in his spot in right field or simply when the mood hit them, after one blunder defined ALDS Game 1 — one misplay.

“I messed it up,” Myers said. “I should have made the play.”

It was the “I Got It” game.

I think they name and catalogue these things in Boston, Land of Buckner. Mistakes live on and on.

So it will be with Myers' goofy fourth-inning gaffe, running away from a David Ortiz high fly that was all his. The baseball hit the warning track, took a Beantown bounce and landed in the Red Sox bullpen for a double — and changed everything.

One second the Rays were humming, up 2-0, next second they shut down like the government. A usually stellar defense devolved at breakneck speed, complete slapstick, butchery everywhere, a spark, a fire, five-run Boston fourth. The Rays lost going away, 12-2.

After the game, guilty Rays were led out of Fenway's shoe box visitors clubhouse and fed to media. Players stood on a makeshift stand — a wood shipping palate — with their backs against a brick wall ... everything but a police mug shot.

There was starting and losing pitcher and fielder Matt Moore. There was catcher Jose Lobaton, whose passed ball on a third strike extended the mayhem. And there was left fielder(?) Sean Rodriguez, who seemed to forget there was this big green wall in left, though he'd homered over it for the first Rays run.

But Wil Myers was the first to speak. Remember that.

He opened the door with his misplay. From a can of corn to Pandora's box. From sure out to unmitigated disaster — and in Fenway, of all places. Myers might play 20 years for all we know, become one of the greats, but every time he's in Boston two things will be the same, great seafood and:.


“I should have taken more charge out there and just caught the ball,” he said.

Myers testified that he called off Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings with a wave of his hand, but that then he caught Jennings out of the corner of his eye, and heard the crowd ... but, no, he didn't hear anyone in the Sox bullpen call for the fly ball, a conspiracy theory for a while.

Myers got pats on the back in the Rays dugout — shake it off. It wasn't easy at first.

“He looked miserable,” Rays bench coach Dave Martinez said. “It's fair to call it just a mistake. It doesn't have to be a rookie. In the playoffs anything can happen. You get a little freaky.”

If there's a bright side to Myers' freaky Friday, it's that he has great bounce-back. He has been fairly unflappable and generally expressionless since arriving in the majors in June. I think Rays trainers occasionally check him for a pulse. They've given up frisking him for a comb. He's 22 and takes life and baseball as it comes.

But this is different, right?

This is October.


“Yeah — they were pretty loud,” Myers said.

“I hope he hears and that's something for motivation for him,” Moore said. “I think Wil is tough between the ears. It's really tough to get a read on what he's thinking, what he's feeling. I'm not sure it was getting to him. I see Wil as guy who uses that as inner strength and it helps him elevate his game a little bit.”

Myers met up with a friend outside the clubhouse after the game. They didn't walk to the Rays team bus, but, incredibly, Myers actually went out onto the bustle of Yawkey Way, into the Boston night, insect fans everywhere, no flying wedge of security.

A tipsy Red Sox fan recognized him.

“Thank you, Wil,” he said. “Thank you kindly.”

“Welcome to Red Sox history!” someone shouted.

Myers stopped and turned.

You know what he did?

He signed some autographs.

One L in Wil, no ill will.

That's this kid. Don't count him out, I thought, as someone handed Myers a baseball.

Yeah, yeah — he caught it on the fly.

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