Let’s get the less incredible stuff out of the way up front: the Mets did not play last night, but the Giants and Cardinals both won. That means the Wild Card race has tightened up a bit, with the Mets up a game on the Giants, who are up a game on the Cardinals. The Mets’ magic number to clinch one of the two spots remains two, and you are reminded that the best outcome for the Cubs in this race is probably that the Mets clinch ASAP, and the Giants and Cardinals finish the regular season tied.
OK. Now on to the WHAT-THE-HELL of last night’s Cardinals-Reds game.
To set things up, the Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead by allowing a run in each of the 8th and 9th innings, and headed to the bottom of the 9th tied. With two outs and Matt Carpenter on first base, Yadier Molina doubled. Carpenter scored, and the Cardinals walked off.
Except that double was a ground rule double, and Carpenter should have been stopped at third base:
What in the world happened? How is that allowed to stand, when it was an easily-reviewable and correctable play?
A lot went wrong on that play: the fact that it’s really not easy to see the top of the “wall” at Busch Stadium, so that didn’t immediately look like a ground rule double; the fact that Reds manager Bryan Price didn’t say anything until after the umpires had already trotted off the field; the fact that the umpires apparently didn’t watch the play closely enough to know that it was a ground rule double; the fact that MLB rules on reviewing plays like that are really wonky.
After the game, Price revealed that, after getting to an umpire, he was told he had 10 seconds to indicate to the umpires that he would possibly want a review (Reds.com). That’s silly enough in that situation – a game-ending play, for heaven’s sake – but it turns out that’s not even the rule. Umpires later learned that the rule is actually that a manager has to let umpires know “immediately” that he might want to review a game-ending play. (How many seconds is “immediately”?) Price couldn’t see the play and couldn’t hear his dugout phone ringing amid the celebration, so it was a while before he realized the ball was a ground rule double.
Even setting that aside, the crew chief can initiate a review on his own from the seventh inning on … *but only if the manager has already used his challenge earlier in the game.* Maybe that rule made sense when written, but in a situation like this, can you see how ridiculous it is? Imagine that the umpires saw that the ball might have been a ground rule double, but Price didn’t say anything right away, and, since he had a challenge left, they can’t do anything. Even if they know it should be reviewed! What a silly rule.
The Reds can protest the game, but they won’t. So, in the end, this will be a game that the Cardinals won – they might have won anyway – but the call was plainly wrong and was plainly correctable. They just, you know, didn’t correct it, because the timing would have been inconvenient. That’s a big black eye for MLB’s replay rules, which are going to be under fire after this one, and you’re absolutely not going to see a game end on a “wrong” call again any time soon. Maybe that’s the good news? Having had such an obvious “oops” moment, perhaps MLB will be able to course-correct on this, and make sure that critical calls like that are fixed.
That will be no solace to the Giants (or possibly Mets), who just lost the opportunity to gain extra ground on the Cardinals. If the Cardinals end up passing the Giants for the Wild Card by a single game, how angry are they going to be?
Each team starts its final series today, with the Mets going to the Phillies, the Cardinals hosting the Pirates, and the Giants hosting the Dodgers.