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When a pitcher throws a pitch and the batter doesn’t hit it, the catcher can’t stop it, and the runner (or runners) advance, that’s a wild pitch. But a wild pitch can be so much more! Sunday’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks featured one of the wildest — and craftiest — wild pitches ever.
There were two outs in the top of the fourth inning, and the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling was pitching with runners on first and third. Yasmani Grandal was behind the plate, and he held his glove out for Stripling’s first pitch to Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings. Pretty normal so far, right? Stripling let go of the pitch, and the 79 mph fastball arced beautifully before it sunk and came in low. Really low. It hit the ground right in front of Grandal, and that’s when things started to get weird.
The ball bounced straight upward and hit the bottom of Grandal’s mask, which flipped off his face and into the dirt. But the ball seemed to completely disappear. Grandal had no idea where the ball had gone, so he stood up and looked down at the ground, assuming that the ball had fallen there. But it hadn’t. It took him a second or two to feel exactly what was going on.
After hitting his mask, the ball had bounced straight down behind his blue chest protector. It wasn’t until Grandal started moving around that he felt the baseball trapped between his chest and the protector. Once he got the ball out of there, the umpire signaled for the two runners on base to move up, which meant Jake Lamb scored from third base.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said at the time that the umpire called a balk, and considering that everyone on base got to move up a station, that’s understandable. But the call on MLB’s play-by-play was a wild pitch. It seems to be referring to rule 5.06 (c)(7) in baseball’s official rules, which is about dead balls. A ball is ruled dead when:
(7) A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base;
That’s exactly what happened, and though it says nothing about what the umpire should call in that situation, a wild pitch seems appropriate. The pitch that Stripling threw was so wild that it get caught in the catcher’s chest protector.
The whole thing was like the hidden ball trick, only Grandal didn’t know it was happening, it wasn’t a trick, and it cost the Dodgers a run. So it’s not really like the hidden ball trick at all. Vin Scully called it “a one-in-a-million shot,” and as usual, he’s exactly right. You could watch thousands and thousands of baseball games (which Scully has) and never see anything like that.
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