The ball might have landed near second base, but Nelson Cruz still received a home run. Thanks to a weird quirk of Tropicana Field, Cruz extended the Tampa Bay Rays' lead over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.
Cruz's controversial blast occurred in the third inning. With the Rays already leading 2-0, Cruz belted a hanging slider from Nick Pivetta out to left field. Two Boston Red Sox outfielders tracked the ball to the wall. For a moment, it looked like Cruz might have just narrowly missed a home run. Then, the ball fell to the ground about 10 yards in front of both outfielders. Despite that, it was ruled a home run.
How is that possible? Blame Tropicana Field.
Nelson Cruz - Tampa Bay Rays (1)* pic.twitter.com/FJsVwH5dEa
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) October 8, 2021
The Fox Sports announcers were confused initially, but quickly figured out what happened. Cruz hit the ball so high that it bounced off one of the catwalks at Tropicana Field. The park has multiple catwalk rings that go around the entire stadium.
The one that Cruz hit was either the C-Ring or D-Ring. Any ball that hits those rings is automatically ruled a home run, per the Rays' website.
Batted ball that strikes either of the lower two catwalks (known as the 'C-Ring' and the 'D-Ring'), including any lights or suspended objects attached to either of those catwalks as well as any angled support rods that connect the 'C-Ring' to the masts that support the 'D-Ring' in fair territory: Home Run.
With the hit, Cruz, 41, became the second oldest player to hit a home run in the postseason.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 8, 2021
The blast gave the Rays a 3-0 lead.
Rays catwalk gets hit a few times a year
It's not the first time one of the Rays' catwalks was involved in a play. A number of infielders have been confused by pop-ups that hit a catwalk and either bounce in a completely opposite direction or never come down.
It's not as common for home run balls to hit a catwalk, but it has happened. Prince Fielder managed the feat in 2013.
Like Fielder, Cruz is also known for his prodigious power. The Rays are hoping to ride that pop back to the World Series, where they hope to come out on top this time around.