Every now and then the hidden ball trick will catch a base runner off guard and result in an easy out for the defense. Just ask Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Max Stassi of the Houston Astros how that works. Of course, just as frequently, a hidden ball can be detrimental to the defense, and that's exactly what we saw happen to the Chicago White Sox on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
With the Texas Rangers holding a 4-3 lead in the third inning, Ian Kinsler rifled a ground ball down the left field line that would end up rolling underneath the padding and staying there. White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo raced after it and then reached under the wall in a desperate search, but was unable to locate it initially. He then signaled to the umpires that the ball was stuck, but the play continued.
On his second attempt, Viciedo was finally able to locate the ball, but at this point Kinsler was already rounding third base and ended up beating the desperate throw home to earn his first career inside-the-park home run and the Rangers first of the season.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura raced out of the dugout to challenge the play — if this was the future, he would have lost a challenge — and was eventually ejected for his efforts. What he didn't realize was the ball was never technically out of sight, and it certainly wasn't lodged under the padding. Viciedo simply couldn't find it in time, so the play was correctly allowed to continue. Maybe had Viciedo put his arms up before the first attempt, the umpires would have ruled the play dead. But that would have drawn a similar argument from Ron Washington, and he would have had a valid point.
I guess what I'm telling you is the umpires — most notably Greg Gibson at third base — handled a potentially difficult — and undoubtedly weird — play perfectly. Hawk Harrelson didn't agree on the White Sox broadcast, stating that Gibson should have called timeout as soon as he made eye contact with Viciedo. But in my mind that only reinforces my belief that the umpires got it right.
On another note, the call, right or wrong, likely had no impact on the outcome. White Sox ace Chris Sale simply didn't have it as he allowed eight earned runs over seven innings. The Rangers would also connect for four conventional homers as they cruised to the 11-5 victory.