Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton apologized for not sticking to his first instinct — to not touch the ball after it became wedged under padding near the left-field foul line.
"I made the play a little more confusing than it should have been," Upton told reporters.
Regardless of Upton's moment of doubt, umpires overturned an inside-the-park home run by Ian Desmond on Friday after a seven-minute replay review, taking probably five or six minutes longer than Major League Baseball would like. But it's only April and we've got to let them iron out the inefficiencies of the new replay order.
The review was a key moment that kept a run off the board for the Washington Nationals and helped the Braves spoil their home opener with a 2-1 victory at D.C. Braves pitchers have allowed a total of five runs in four games, but it would have been more until Desmond's homer was reduced to a ground-rule double in the fifth inning.
His team trailing by a run, Desmond lined a hit down the left-field line, and the ball stuck between wall padding and the ground about six feet from the foul line. As soon as the ball stopped, Upton stopped his pursuit and raised both arms — as all outfielders should be trained to do — to signal the umpires that the play should be dead.
But third-base ump Marvin Hudson did not grant the request and Desmond, a speedy runner, kept hustling. Encouraged by the frantic plea of infielder Andrelton Simmons to act, Upton relented and retrieved the ball without any trouble — it obviously wasn't wedged tightly — but Desmond came around to score without a throw home.
Upton resumed his protest and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged the call to crew chief Jim Joyce. Umpires checked with replay control in New York and, eventually, overturned the home run and ordered Desmond back to second base.
After of a delay of about seven minutes, the next pitch was thrown. Shortly thereafter, Desmond was caught stealing, compounding the frustration of Nationals manager Matt Williams, who said he disliked the ground-rule double ruling because Upton had picked up the ball so easily.
“The fact (is) that when he had to, he reached down and threw it in.”
But how much a ball gets lodged apparently doesn't matter according to the rules:
The review led the umpires to institute Rule 7.05f, which states a runner will be awarded "two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines."
It's also true, or at least it used to be, that umpires have been allowed some judgment in matters like this. That's probably one of the reasons why the review took so long.
Via MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Upton said his mistake was trying to make a play after putting up his arms:
Justin Upton: "I knew I was right. It was just a matter of if they were going to kill the play or not."— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 4, 2014
Justin Upton: "The next time it happens, if I’m 100 percent sure like I was, I will stand there and make sure they come out and see it."— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 4, 2014
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