Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? Who knows if Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks intentionally held up his left arm to interfere with what might have been a double play in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates? Who can say if the outcome of Arizona's 3-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates might have been different if the play were allowed to be reviewed via video replay?
The answers weren't satisfactory to the Pirates, who also lost star slugger Andrew McCutchen to discomfort in his left side in the eighth inning, which might or might not be related to getting plunked by a pitch earlier in the series. He'll be re-evaluated Monday. The end of their loss to the D-backs will be re-evaluated over and over.
What umpires had to decide was this: After Andy Marte hit a grounder to short with runners at the corners and one out in the 10th, did Ahmed make an extra effort to get in the way of the relay throw by second baseman Jayson Nix? Or was Ahmed just putting his arms up (or, in this case, arm) like runners tend to do on slides? No matter Ahmed's intent, Tuffy Gosewisch scored the winning run after the ball rolled away.
The D-backs got all of the benefit of the doubt in this gray area of the rules. And this is what rule 7:09 (f) says:
If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.
The play was not contestable via replay because it's a judgment call, but the umpires checked anyway to see if they blew it. Ron Kulpa said they got it right.
"It has to have been willful and deliberate with obvious intent to break up a double play. The guy has to do something obviously, willfully, intentionally to break up that double play. Guys slide into second base all the time with their hands up.”
Mercer said the last time he saw a play like that, in high school, interference was called. The other Pirates didn't see it the umps way, either, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
“I don't think I've ever seen a play like that before,” Nix said. “You don't really see a whole lot, but you can feel (runners) when they're coming in. (Ahmed) came in a little higher than normal, probably.”
Manager Clint Hurdle asked for an explanation why second base umpire Lance Barrett did not rule there was interference.
“I felt there was an extra effort (by Ahmed) to get his hand up in the way,” Hurdle said.
If only their opinion mattered. Besides, McCutchen's status is more worrisome. A day after getting hit by a pitch, McCutchen was in the starting lineup and drove in the tying run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly. But as he left the batter's box, he grabbed his left side in pain. It's not certain if the injury is related to McCutchen getting hit with a pitch Saturday.
A bad couple of days to be Bucn in the desert.
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