Rule on plays at home plate needs review
JUN 19, 2014 12:39p ET
PITTSBURGH -- Devin Mesoraco couldn't find fault in anything Russell Martin, his catching counterpart with the Pittsburgh Pirates, did as Mesoraco chugged toward home plate in the third inning of Wednesday night's 11-4 win by the Reds at PNC Park. Video review did. While this particular scenario ended up benefitting the Reds, the question of purpose vs. practicality in regards to Major League Baseball's revised rule on home plate collisions was once again brought into the spotlight.
Mesoraco was on third base in a one-out, bases loaded situation when Alfredo Simon's hard swing produced nothing but a slightly hit dribble to the third base side of the mound. Pirates' relief pitcher Stolmy Pimentel got to the ball and made the only play he could by throwing the ball to Martin, who had a foot on the plate awaiting the toss for a force out.
Seemed simple enough, until Reds manager Bryan Price came out of the dugout to ask about the play. Under MLB Rule 7.13, which was initiated this season, catchers must give runners a lane to the plate unless they are already in possession of the ball or if they are moving in position to catch the ball. They can't set up shop and block the plate at the outset of the play. While this isn't a play a manager can challenge, umpires can decide whether or not to ask for a video replay review.
That's what crew chief Jerry Layne did. After three minutes, 33 seconds, officials in New York told Layne that Martin was in violation of the rule and that the original out call should be overturned. Mesoraco scored, the Reds led 6-0 instead of 5-0 and would go on to score two more runs in the innings to blow open the game. Martin was in disbelief. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle was ejected for coming out of the dugout and arguing the decision.
"He has to try to catch the ball and keep his foot on the base. It's a force play. I don't know. I don't think that's the intention of the rule," said Mesoraco. "I wouldn't have done anything different myself, but who knows?"
Mesoraco's actions came under review in the fifth inning for a similar play when he was ruled to have tagged out Pedro Alvarez at the plate on a throw from center fielder Billy Hamilton. Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister, who took over for the departed Hurdle, came out as Price had and questioned the call. Review officials deemed that Mesoraco hadn't illegally blocked the plate but overturned the call because Alvarez was shown to have beaten the tag.
"You may think he looks out, you may think he looks safe but you really never know," said Mesoraco. "I think as a player you want to have an idea of what you can and can't do and, at this point, with that play, catching-wise, I don't think that we do. This one gets overturned, that one gets overturned and then this one doesn't and to me they all look like similar plays. You just do what you can do to get the out and hope they don't overturn it."
SECOND TIME A CHARM: Tuesday's 6-5 win was the ninth time the Reds won the opening game of a series. Wednesday was the first time they won the second game of a series as well. The Reds had been 0-8 previously in the second game of series after winning the first one.
FIRST TO 10: Alfredo Simon became the National League's first 10-game winner Wednesday. He pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs on 111 pitches before a heavy rainstorm rolled through the area and ended his night. Hoover replaced Simon after the rain delay of one hour, 15 minutes. Simon is now 10-3 this season, one more win than Adam Wainwright of St. Louis and Zack Greinke of Los Angeles.
It was the 14th start of the season for Simon and for the 12th time he pitched at least six innings. His ERA is 3.05. Only twice has he given up more than three runs in an outing and eight times he's allowed two runs or less. His five strikeouts against the Pirates pushed his career total to 301 in 191 appearances. He's closing in on his career high of 16 starts for Baltimore in 2011. He threw a career-high 115 2/3 innings for the Orioles that season. He had 87 2/3 innings for the Reds last season in 63 appearances, all out of the bullpen.
Simon got his chance to be in the rotation this season because of an injury to Mat Latos. He hasn't let that opportunity pass him.
"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling brand new," said Simon. "I know I can throw like 200 innings. I know it won't be a big deal for me. I've got a great arm and I feel healthy right now."