Washington Nationals Affected By An Obscure MLB Rule

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 29: Josh Bell #19 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the Philadelphia Phillies during Game One of the doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on July 29, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 29: Josh Bell #19 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the Philadelphia Phillies during Game One of the doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on July 29, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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In what was an inning-ending double play, the Pirates still ended up scoring a run due to an overlooked MLB Rule.

With runners on second and third with one out in a tie game in the top of the fifth inning, Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes lined a ball right at Josh Bell who then threw to third to get Hoy Jun Park who didn’t tag up. Inning ending double play. Except for the fact that Washington’s Ehire Adrianza tagged the runner instead of the base.

This shouldn’t matter and the inning should have ended with the score still tied, but according to the rules, the Nats had to appeal that the runner left early. But because the Nats had left the field assuming the inning was over and had already reached the dugout, they were unable to appeal. As a result, the double play counted but the Pirates were awarded a run, putting them up 4-3.

No, this isn’t a cruel joke. The umpires took turns talking to Nats and Pirates Managers Dave Martinez and Derek Shelton to explain what was going on. Each were getting increasingly frustrated and letting the umpires have it. The umpires struggled to correctly follow the rules, sending the teams on and off the field, putting runners back on base, and counting and un-counting the run. After 15-20 minutes the Pirates both the double play and the run counted.

Confused about the ruling? Per MLB rules 5.09(c)(3) to 5.09(c)(4):

"(3) He overruns or overslides first base and fails to return to the base immediately, and he or the base is tagged prior to the runner returning to first base;(4) He fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged.Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play. If the violation occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field.An appeal is not to be interpreted as a play or an attempted play.Successive appeals may not be made on a runner at the same base. If the defensive team on its first appeal errs, a request for a second appeal on the same runner at the same base shall not be allowed by the umpire. (Intended meaning of the word “err” is that the defensive team in making an appeal threw the ball out of play. For example, if the pitcher threw to first base to appeal and threw the ball into the stands, no second appeal would be allowed.)Appeal plays may require an umpire to recognize an apparent “fourth out.” If the third out is made during a play in which an appeal play is sustained on another runner, the appeal play decision takes precedence in determining the out. If there is more than one appeal during a play that ends a half-inning, the defense may elect to take the out that gives it the advantage. For the purpose of this rule, the defensive team has “left the field” when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory on their way to the bench or Clubhouse."

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Nationals were able to score three runs and take a 6-4 lead. Because after all, ball doesn’t lie. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on to win 8-7 on the back of Bryan Reynolds’s three-homer day. The Nats had their fair share of chances, but stranded the bases loaded twice and hit into three double plays. And of course, the run awarded to the Pirates from the obscure rule ended up being what decided the game. Because that’s baseball.

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