Posted on September 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The St. Louis Cardinals picked up an important win for their wild card hopes against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. However, the Reds would be inclined to disagree. Not about the importance of the game for the Cardinals, but about St. Louis actually winning the game.
After the Reds scratched out a run in the top of the 9th to tie the game 3-3, the Cardinals had a runner at first base, Matt Carpenter, with two outs and Yadier Molina at the plate in the bottom of the 9th. Molina hit a line drive to left field that took one hop and then bounced off an advertisement that sits behind the left field wall. Carpenter raced home from first base, beating the relay throw and prompting the Cardinals to celebrate wildly.
The umpires ruled that it was a live ball, but on replay Molina’s hit clearly bounced over the wall and should have been ruled a ground rule double, forcing Carpenter to stop at third base with two outs in the inning. However, as the Cardinals celebrated on the field, the umpires were quick to leave the field, declaring the game over. By the time the Reds saw a clear replay, prompting manager Bryan Price to challenge the call, the umpires were off the field and it was too late to review and reverse the call.
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“In this situation, Bryan Price did not come up on the top step [of the dugout],” explained crew chief Bill Miller after the game. “We stayed there. I waited for my partners to come off the field. I looked into the dugout, the Cincinnati dugout, and Bryan Price made no eye contact with me whatsoever and then, after 30 seconds, he finally realized. Somebody must have told him what had happened, and we were walking off the field.”
By rule, Price would have needed to step onto the field or make some gesture to the umpires within 10 seconds of Carpenter scoring the run. He would then have needed to officially challenge the play within 30 seconds after receiving word from the clubhouse that the Reds were likely to win the challenge. However, the umpires declared that Price didn’t act quickly enough, ending the game.
Miller said that none of the four umpires realized as it was happening live that the ball hit advertisements behind the wall and not the wall itself. After seeing a replay, broadcasters calling the game were shocked that the play was not reviewed and ultimately reversed.
Price, as one would expect, was not pleased with how the game ended. “That’s a terrible rule,” he said. “How do you let a game, any game — but for this matter, it has playoff ramifications — end because you won’t wait more than 10 seconds on the field. That’s ridiculous.”
Price explained that he couldn’t hear the phone in the dugout over the crowd noise, leading to the delay in asking the umpires to review it. “Because of the crowd noise, we couldn’t hear the phone ring,” he explained. “There’s no siren or blinking light to let you know.”
Of course, had the play been overturned, the Cardinals would still have had the winning run on third base. However, one more out would have sent the game to extra innings where anything could happen, so there’s no guarantee St. Louis would have still won the game if the call had been made correctly.
The Reds have until noon on Friday to file a protest, although they are unlikely to win it. Based on the rule book, the umpires did give Price enough time to ask for a challenge, and he simply waited too long. Of course, knowing that it was a game-deciding play, perhaps the umpires should have been willing to take a look at the play on their own, especially considering the importance of the game in the National League wild card race.
With the win, the Cardinals remain one game behind the San Francisco Giants, who also won Thursday, for the second wild card spot. The New York Mets hold the top spot, one game ahead of the Giants and two games ahead of the Cardinals. All three teams have three games left to play in the regular season. The Mets play away against the Phillies; the Giants host the Dodgers; and the Cardinals host the Pirates.