It’s bad, but I’ve seen worse

For better or worse (most of the time worse) I root for the Cubs. The designer of the book  is a Reds fan while the illustrator likes the Braves. Yesterday the Cubs won a game in miraculous fashion. They got a 2 out, 2 strike, 2 run homer in the 9th for a 6-5 win. The losing pitcher was former Cub LaTroy Hawkins.

Hawkins was a Cub for a few years in the ’00s. He had the most painful blown save I have ever seen in my life. Even though it happened 10 years ago I still vividly remember it.

It even involves an often misunderstood rule making it something worth talking about on this blog.

Before getting into the situation, let’s get the rule out of the way. Rule 7.05(g) states:

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—

(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made

Lots of coaches out there use the phrase “one plus one” to describe awards on overthrows. They think the runner gets the base they are going to plus one more. While these folks get the ultimate outcome right a lot of the time, they get there in the wrong fashion.

The rule clearly states that a runner gets two bases from where they were at the time the ball was pitched. This is why the batter gets second base on a ball thrown out of play – two bases from home (where they started).

Now, for the Hawkins play. Here is the box score from Baseball Reference. In the top of the ninth, you will see a play coded like this:

Lineout: P; Michaels Scores/No RBI/unER/Adv on E1 (throw); Bell Scores/No RBI/unER; Offerman to 3B

In English this is what happened. Down by 1 run, the Phillies had the bases loaded with 1 out. The batter lined out to Hawkins. At this point, all he has to do is throw to a base to nab one of the runners that had not tagged up yet.

What did Hawkins do? In throwing to first, the ball hit the runner’s helmet and flew into the stands. This is where the rule comes in – each runner gets 2 bases from where they were at the start of the pitch. This means the runner from 3rd AND the runner from 2nd were allowed to score. Now the Cubs were losing.

I have umpired numerous games where a coach comes out in this situation and pleads the runner on 2nd should only get 3rd. See he gets “the base he is going to and one more”. Since they were returning to 2nd, they should only get 3rd.

This is not the way the rule was written. The umps got it right (of course they did since this is pretty easy). The Cubs were retired 1-2-3 in the ninth and lost. I have not seen anything like it since.

Awards on balls thrown out of play is covered on page 60 of RuleGraphics.

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