Monday, April 3, 2023

Cleveland Scores Game-Winning Run on Runner's Lane Interference No-Call

Before Cleveland secured a 6-5 win over Seattle in extra innings on Sunday, the Guardians scored the eventual winning run on a throwing error and runner's lane interference no-call by HP Umpire Brennan Miller. Was this the correct ruling?

With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning of a tied game, Guardians batter Josh Naylor hit a ground ball to Mariners pitcher Gabe Speier, who threw to catcher Cal Raleigh to retire Guardians R3 Steven Kwan. Raleigh then turned to throw to first baseman Ty France, but his throw bounced on the dirt in front of the base, and France was unable to field it, resulting in a throwing error that allowed Guardians runner R2 Jose Ramirez—hustling from second base—to score the eventual winning run.

Replays clearly indicate that batter-runner Naylor failed to run within the 45-foot runner's lane on his way to first base, but does that mean HP Umpire Miller should have called him out for runner's lane interference, which would have resulted in an inning-ending double play?

Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11) puts the batter out for runner's lane interference if the following occurs: "A batter is out when, in running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, they run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interfere with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead." (an exception allows a runner who has been legally within the lane the allotment to exit the lane by a stride within the immediate vicinity of first base).

In addition to the simple question of batter-runner Naylor's positioning (inside the foul line), OBR 5.09(a)(11) requires the batter-runner's position inside or outside the line to interfere with the fielder taking the throw, whom in the case was first baseman France. Whether or not Naylor's running interfered with catcher Raleigh's throw is irrelevant: it only matters whether or not Naylor's running inside the line interfered with France taking the throw, and in order for that to be the case, the throw must have had a chance of reasonably retiring the runner had the runner not been inside (or outside) the line.

As Miller—who was in perfect position to see the play on first baseline extended—ruled that the throw would not have reasonably retired the runner, Naylor was not declared out for RLI.


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