For the most part, the infield fly rule blends in seamlessly with the rest of the game's rules. However, there are always those one or two instances a year where it takes center stage and either creates controversy, or makes someone look, well, foolish.
On Wednesday night we saw one of those rare instances, and unfortunately for National League MVP and two-time world champion Buster Posey, it resulted in the latter.
Brandon Phillips got him. Good.
It happened in the third inning with Gregor Blanco on second base, Posey on first, and only one out. Hunter Pence hit a very soft fly in Phillips' direction that toed the line between a true popup and a blooper, but was certainly in the air long enough to fit the infield fly criteria. Second base umpire Bill Welke felt the same way and made the infield fly signal, meaning Pence is automatically out and the runners are free to advance at their own risk.
It was an easy call and it should have been a routine play, but it turned out to be anything but, thanks to Phillips' quick thinking. After realizing the infield fly had been called, Phillips knew there was minimal risk involved for him if he allowed the ball to drop given his position on the field, so that's exactly what he did. The baserunners, who were either not aware of the ruling or simultaneously had a brain cramp, then took off for the next base, with Posey running directly into the inning-ending double play after Phillips made a short throw to shortstop Zack Cozart.
It wasn't quite on the bonehead level of the walk-off that wasn't in the minor leagues this week, but when you consider the Reds would go on to win 3-2 in 11 innings, taking away a scoring chance that juicy for San Francisco's struggling offense is a huge play. Also, the timing couldn't have been any better for Phillips. I would doubt that's a risk he'd be willing to take with nobody out because you might lose the double play or risk the lead runner advancing to third with one out if it doesn't work out.
It just came together perfectly. The situation, the placement, the quick thinking, and the lapse of concentration. But hey, if there's ever a bit of good news that comes out of a situation like this, it's that the embarrassed player and those who witness the play will never fall prey to it again.
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