We have our first replay controversy of the season. It was bound to happen some time.
In the fifth inning of this afternoon's home opener, Washington Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond hit a line drive to the left field corner that Justin Upton tracked to the wall, but the ball got stuck, so the Atlanta Braves' left fielder threw up his arms to let the umpires know it was unplayable.
There was no call on the field.
Desmond kept running, scoring what appeared at first to be an inside the park home run as Upton finally picked the ball up and threw it in.
If you didn't see the play live, watch what happened below:
A call was placed to New York where it was reviewed and the umpires, citing Rule 7.05(f) and saying that the baseball was stuck in the padding of the wall, reversed the on-field ruling.
Here's that wording of that rule for anyone who might not be familiar:
7.05: Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance -- (f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines..."
Desmond was sent back to second base and subsequently caught trying to steal third.
Fans in Nationals Park booed lustily, though the call seemed to be by the book.
After what ended up being a 2-1 loss, Matt Williams was asked about the umpires' explanation of the ruling on the field.
"They told me that from replay it was lodged underneath between the pad and the dirt," Williams explained.
"I questioned it with Jim [Joyce] because when [Upton] had to, he reached down and picked it up and threw it in. So that was my question."
"He threw up his hands," Williams continued, referring to Upton. "Generally, that is an indication that the ball is lodged, but when there was no signal from the umpire throwing his hands up saying it was a double or it was a ground-rule double or lodged underneath there, then Justin reached down and picked it up and threw it in. By that time, Ian scored, so that was my question. But they reviewed it and determined that that it was lodged underneath the fence."
FBB's Recommended Reading:
It's something Williams has seen before, of course, though the details were unique.
"Generally you see it when you have places like Wrigley Field," Williams said. "The ball goes in the ivy, and you can't see it that happens. A ball bounces fair or foul down the line, ball bounces up over the fence. They throw their hands up. I've never seen that one before."
"One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure we get the calls right," he told reporters. "I have [questions] with that one though, because of what happened after the fact. The fact that he, when he had to, he reached down and threw it in."
The fact that third base umpire Marvin Hudson made no call on the initial play was telling in Williams' opinion.
"For me, in the heat of the moment, and with my naked eye, it tells me that he didn't think it was lodged underneath the fence. But it is a reviewable call, and a reviewable play and they decided to do it and determined that it was a double, ball is lodged underneath that pad."
It ended up being an important run in what was a 2-1 Nationals' loss in the home opener.
Did the umpires get the call right?
We talked about all that and more after today's game on Nats Nightly. This afternoon, Dave Nichols from the District Sports Page and I were joined by Joe Drugan from The Nats Blog and Tom Bridge from We Love DC. If you're not following either of them or reading their work, you should be, they're good people and good writers: