Ouch for the Nationals and their fans.
Do you remember that crazy Game Five of the NLDS? Specifically, do you remember the insane fifth inning against Max Scherzer, when the Cubs scored four runs with two outs in the inning thanks to things like a dropped third strike, an intentional walk, catcher’s interference, and a bases loaded hit by pitch?
Do you remember how there were big questions about whether that dropped third strike, with Javy Baez’s backswing hitting catcher Matt Wieters, should actually have ended the inning? The way we read the rule here at BN, it sure seemed like the Nationals got screwed in the moment.
Well, Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre offered MLB’s perspective on that play, and … the Nationals got screwed.
“You know, the whole rule interpretation – there’s rules, and then there’s instructions to the umpires,” Torre said, appearing Thursday on SiriusXM radio with host Chris Russo, via ESPN. “There’s separate books. And what [the home plate umpire’s] feeling was, that the interference didn’t take precedent over the fact that the ball was already past [Wieters] when the contact took place.
“However, the rule states that when contact is made – in other words, when the bat came around and hit the catcher’s mask – it’s a dead ball. It’s a dead ball. And that’s the one thing that should have taken precedence.”
In other words, the moment Baez’s bat hit Wieters, the play is dead, the strikeout is a strikeout, and the inning is over. The Cubs would have led 5-4 at that point instead of the 7-4 lead they had when the inning actually ended. The Cubs, of course, went on to win by a single run. To say that was a big mistake – in a decisive Game Five – is quite an understatement.
The crazy thing, though, and why you maybe shouldn’t feel ENTIRELY like the Cubs stole that game? The Nationals could have sought a challenge on the play, according to Torre. Dusty Baker could have asked for a rules interpretation, and then the umpires would have checked with the replay official, and perhaps then would have gotten the call right.
We can’t go back in time and change the result, and the Cubs will always have that NLDS win. But if you’re a Nationals fan – and you haven’t ever seen your team win a postseason series, and you saw the Cubs go on to get stomped by the Dodgers – you are feeling pretty sick right about now.