In the top of the seventh inning, the Astros decided to go to their bullpen and bring in lefty Wesley Wright to face left-handed hitting J.D. Schuck. Angels manager Mike Scioscia countered by deciding to pinch hit with righty Luis Jimenez. Without Wright having ever thrown a pitch, Astros manager Bo Porter then decided to go to right-handed pitcher Hector Ambriz. And the umpires allowed the move.
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Letting that happen is against the rules. Blatantly.
Here are Rules 3.05b and c:
(b) If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief's judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
(c) If an improper substitution is made for the pitcher, the umpire shall direct the proper pitcher to return to the game until the provisions of this rule are fulfilled. If the improper pitcher is permitted to pitch, any play that results is legal. The improper pitcher becomes the proper pitcher as soon as he makes his first pitch to the batter, or as soon as any runner is put out.
Rule 3.05(c) Comment: If a manager attempts to remove a pitcher in violation of Rule 3.05(c) the umpire shall notify the manager of the offending club that it cannot be done. If, by chance, the umpire-in-chief has, through oversight, announced the incoming improper pitcher, he should still correct the situation before the improper pitcher pitches. Once the improper pitcher delivers a pitch he becomes the proper pitcher.
So unless Wright was hurt -- and there was no indication he was, especially since the umpires would have had a rather easy explanation for Scioscia -- the umpires allowed the Astros to violate this rule and neglected to do their duty as outlined in the comment about Rule 3.05.
The umpires did phone up to the press box to notify the official scorer that Scioscia had filed an official protest before another pitch was thrown.
The Angels would go on to come back and win the game, 6-5, so the protest will be summarily dropped, but that doesn't mean this situation should be ignored.
Had the Astros won, I believe the protest should be upheld because a rule was broken, plain as day. Of course, the rule also says once the improper pitcher makes a pitch, he becomes the proper pitcher. So it's possible Major League Baseball would have denied the protest under this provision, which would, frankly, have been pretty weak -- because the protest was filed before a pitch was thrown by the "improper" pitcher.
All is well that ends well for the Angels, but this issue is more about the umpiring crew. They should know a very obvious rule that every baseball fan knows. And they allowed it to be broken willfully on their watch. That is not acceptable.