Friday, October 2, 2020

Tmac's Teachable Postseason - HBP Conflict in Chicago

With pitcher Yimi Garcia's Miami Marlins on the cusp of eliminating Willson Contreras' Chicago Cubs from the 2020 postseason, HP Umpire Will Little found himself officiating a hit-by-pitch that gave rise to conflict between two players late at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.

With one out and none on in the top of the 8th inning, with Miami holding a 2-0 lead, Contreras took a first-pitch fastball from Garcia for a hit-by-pitch...or did he?

Replays indicate the pitch struck Contreras on the elbow, which he appeared to move directly toward and into the path of the pitched ball, effectively causing the HBP.

Did Contreras lean in?
Accordingly, HP Umpire Little enforced Official Baseball Rule 5.05(b)(2)—"The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out when: He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball; (2) If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched"—by calling "Time" and ordering Contreras back to home plate to resume his at-bat, for failure to attempt to avoid being touched by the ball (even more-so, he appeared to lean into the pitch).

After a brief discussion with Cubs Manager David Ross, Contreras' at-bat continued, with Contreras squaring to bunt the 1-0 pitch before taking his bat back for a called strike on a pitch over the heart of home plate. Contreras, seeing Garcia charging in toward the plate (perhaps in response to a potential bunt), yelled in Garcia's direction.

Little noticed this brewing conflict and subtly stepped in between the two players, and the next pitch from Garcia hit Contreras on the upper arm for a legitimate hit-by-pitch.

Umps tend to both players.
This time, as Contreras walked toward first base, 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Dan Iassogna helped manage the situation by escorting a visible perturbed Contreras to first base as HP Umpire Little headed to the mound and Garcia. 2B Umpire Bill Welke also started toward the middle of the infield, just in case.

In the end, cooler heads prevailed (after further yelling) and the Marlins completed a sweep of the Cubs without incident.

Question: Was the hit-by-pitch intentional? After a so-called fake HBP and yelling toward the pitcher, one could easily surmise that Garcia may have been tempted to intentionally hit Contreras with a pitch, such as the 1-1 fastball into Contreras' bicep—and that's a fair question.

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However, context is key, and consider the situation: Miami leads the game 2-0 in the 8th inning of a postseason elimination game during a best-of-three series. Chances are, given this context, the pitcher was not attempting to bring the tying run to the plate and, thus, warnings and ejections likely would not be warranted...nonetheless, it behooves umpires to sense the conflict and prepare to react accordingly, as Iassogna and Little did upon the bona fide hit-by-pitch.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Teachable - Contreras' HBP Conflict with Yimi Garcia at Wrigley (CCS)


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