Saturday, October 1, 2022

Phillies Lose Out After Backswing Interference Loophole, Get it Back After Wrong Count on Batter

A loophole in baseball's backswing interference rule nearly cost the Phillies an out in Washington, until HP Umpire Marvin Hudson lost track of the count, giving pitcher Zach Elfin an extra chance to strike out Nationals batter Victor Robles as Philadelphia defeated the Nats, 5-1, on Friday.

With two out and Nationals baserunner R2 Luis Garcia on second base, batter Victor Robles swung at and missed a 2-1 cutter from Phillies pitcher Elfin for a swinging strike as catcher JT Realmuto threw to second base in an attempt to pickoff runner R2 Garcia. Realmuto's initial throw did not retire the runner, but a rundown ensued during which it appeared as if Garcia ran out of the base path to avoid fielder Alec Bohm's tag.

Behind the play, HP Umpire Hudson, however, had called "Time" due to batter Robles' bat making contact with catcher Realmuto's hip on the backswing, an instance of follow-through contact. Pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a) Comment, Garcia was returned to second base, safely: "If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard they carry the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of them on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."

Sidebar: In NFHS/high school, follow-through interference results in an out; pro and NCAA/college do not consider this bona fide interference.

Because the catcher's initial throw did not retire the runner, pursuant to modern interpretation, "Time" is called and play halted; professional baseball does not allow a delayed dead ball situation here to extend past the "initial throw."

With Washington given a second chance, Robles took Elfin's subsequent 2-2 pitch for a called ball, and the next pitch after that for another called ball—but no one on the field seemed to notice that four balls had been thrown to Robles. As such, the count became 3-2 instead of an at-bat-ending 4-2, and with that extra pitch, Elfin struck out Robles...for a cumulative 4-3 count.

Ball/Strike count as well as number of outs and similar scorekeeping variables are reviewable via Crew Chief Review, but with uniformed personnel apparently unaware of the incorrect count, play continued with the improper count becoming the official count, allowing the strikeout to stand.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: After Nats gain from backswing non-interference loophole, Philly gets extra pitch (CCS)


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