Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sorry, Stros - RLI Doesn't Apply on Plays FROM First Base

When Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel's thrown ball toward home plate hit White Sox batter-runner Yasmani Grandal on the infield grass, Houston sought a runner's lane interference call, but HP Umpire Tom Hallion said the 45-foot line didn't matter for this play. Why is that?

With none out and runners at the corners in the 4th inning of Sunday's Houston-Chicago ALDS Game 3, White Sox batter Grandal hit a 0-1 changeup from Astros pitcher Zack Greinke on the ground to first baseman Gurriel, who threw home to make a play on White Sox baserunner R3 Luis Robert. Gurriel's throw hit Grandal and deflected past catcher Martin Maldonado, allowing Robert to score and runner R1 Jose Abreu to advance to third base.

After the play, Houston campaigned for a call, but after conference, the umpires opted not to rule Grandal out for interference. There are two kinds of interference that came up in Hallion's subsequent discussion with Houston manager Dusty Baker.

The first is runner's lane interference, or Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11), which states, in part, "In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base," the runner isn't within the lane, etc. I stopped after the first phrase because we already have our answer as to why RLI doesn't apply: the ball was not "being field TO first base": it was being thrown FROM first base. That's how simple it is to explain why RLI, and thus the runner's lane itself, doesn't matter here. You'll recall every time we've discussed RLI, it's been on a play TO first base, and now you know why.

As for interference with a thrown ball, OBR 6.01(a)(10) states that a runner can be declared out for two reasons: "fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." Just like RLI, the rule gives us our answer. This is not a batted ball, but a thrown ball, which means the interference must be intentional. Simply running on the grass or otherwise is not on its own sufficient to establish this level of intent—Hallion gave an elbow/chicken wing gesture while talking with Baker to demonstrate what would signify intent—and for that reason, umpires declined to call interference.

Finally, as we have stated many times over the years, the baseline is irrelevant here and the base path three-foot rule also does not apply because the base path rule only applies when a fielder is attempting to tag the runner.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Crew Hallion's INT no-call in the American League Division Series (FS1)


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