June 05, 2015
There’s never a single play that decides a baseball game, but one definitely stood out above the rest during the Phillies’ 6-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.
Let’s set the stage: Top of the 5th, 2-2 ballgame, one out, and the bases loaded with Reds after Aaron Harang intentionally walked Joey Votto to get to the guy with the 11th-highest OPS in Major League Baseball, third baseman Todd Frazier.
It actually did work out! Well, at least it should have. Harang got ahead in the count 0-2 and threw a curveball out of the strike zone that Frazier rolled over weakly toward the shortstop. Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, who was stationed at third, isn’t exactly Bartolo Colon out there (who is?), but he looked like a pitcher running the basepaths. DeSclafani somehow froze on a groundball right in front him, and even on a slow roller, Freddy Galvis had more than enough time to throw him out at the plate. The ball beats him by 10 feet and there are now two outs in the inning.
That is, until bleepin’ Bryan Price had to stick his bleeping face into everybody’s bleeping business:
After a review that felt longer than some sessions of congress, the decree finally came down from New York. DeSclafani was ruled safe at home because Carlos Ruiz was blocking the plate. Since last year, that’s a no-no.
“It just looked like it caught Chooch a little bit off guard and he was blocking the plate,” Ryne Sandberg said after the game. “That was the right call by the umpires, but it was a big momentum swing there.”
The reason the play was so deflating to the Phillies is because on merit, DeSclafani should’ve been called out at the plate. The only reason he was bailed out is because of where Ruiz was standing before he even got close to scoring. All that said, this one is mostly on Chooch. He tried to tag the runner when all that was required on the play is a force-out. If he simply stood on the plate like a first baseman, the call wouldn’t have gotten overturned.
Ruiz left the locker room before reporters could get in there last night, but Sandberg felt that his catcher didn’t have a lot of time to think on what was a bang-bang play.
“I think he was just caught off-guard and surprised that it came to him,” Sandberg said. “He found himself straddled to home plate with no lane to the runner.”
If we’ve established that the call was correct, maybe the more important question is if it’s a good rule in the first place. It was enacted to make sure catchers don’t get run over at the plate like Buster Posey did, but the rule is undoubtedly difficult to uniformly enforce. The umpires took over four minutes of their dear sweet time on the horn with the review center, presumably because there’s a lot grey area involved in making the decision.
“I know they’re trying to prevent injuries and stuff, but when you got guys trying to make trick slides into the plate, there’s more grounds for guys getting hurt that way too,” Harang said. “It’s something that’ll just have to be figured out, worked on, and progress as a rule because nobody really knows for sure what’s going to happen.”
Jake Diekman pitched 1.1 scoreless innings last night, which has been a rare occurrence thus far this season. His ERA sits at 6.75, and presumably because of this, the left-handed reliever has been optioned to Lehigh Valley “to work on some things,” according to Sandberg.
“The last two weeks, I’ve felt great,” Diekman said. “Before that I think I was just fighting myself. I need to get out of my own way.”
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann