Athletics fan interferes with play and helps Angels during comeback rally

With 11 games to play in the 2018 regular season, the Oakland Athletics sit five games behind the Astros in the AL West and 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the top wild-card spot. They're 5 1/2 games up on the Rays for the second wild-card spot.

The A's suffered a tough loss Tuesday night (LAA 9, OAK 7) as their vaunted bullpen blew a three-run lead against an Angels team that has already been eliminated from postseason contention. Three relievers combined to allow six runs in the sixth inning Tuesday night.

During that sixth inning rally a fan -- a fan wearing Athletics gear, at that -- reached over the wall and interfered with a foul fly ball that A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty appeared to have a chance to catch. The bases were loaded with one out at the time, so while a run would've scored on the sacrifice fly, at least an out would've been recorded. Here's the play:

The play was reviewed and the replay crew in New York determined there was no fan interference on the play. There obviously was. The fan did reach over to catch (or at least attempt to catch) the ball. The replay crew determined it was not a routine play, however, and no out as recorded. It would've been different if Piscotty was camped under it can you could reasonably assume an easy catch.

Play continued after the non-interference call and it came back to hurt the A's. Andrelton Simmons, who hit the interference ball, came through with a two-run single after the at-bat continued. Kaleb Cowart then clocked a go-ahead grand slam two batters later. Here is the entire rally:

Who knows how the inning plays out if Piscotty makes the catch or the out is awarded on fan interference. That's the second out of the inning and a run scores on the sacrifice fly, and the runner at second probably tags up and goes to third as well. What happens after that? Who knows. Everything changes. Pitch selection, approach at the plate, everything.

Let's consider the win probability:

  • A's win probability when Simmons steps to the plate: 74.5 percent
  • A's win probability if out is awarded, run scores, runner moves to third: 79.3 percent
  • A's win probability after Simmons' two-run single: 59.9 percent

The difference between Simmons making an out and Simmons stroking a two-run single is 19.4 percent win probability percentage points. That is huge. That said, Lou Trivino wasn't exactly razor sharp Tuesday night. Things could've easily spiraled out of control anyway.

While the ball looked catchable to me, it was not a routine play, and it would've required an effort above and beyond most fly balls. And obviously MLB feels the same way. Could Piscotty have caught it? Yeah, looks possible. Safe to assume he would've caught it? I don't think so. Who's to say the ball doesn't clank off his glove as he braces for the wall?

Athletics manager Bob Melvin was understandably upset about the non-interference call. Here's what Melvin and Piscotty told the Associated Press after the game:

"I don't know how you don't (call interference). He's going to catch it," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "I'm not sure what they saw that we didn't see. I asked Stephen and he said he'd have caught it. Maybe the placement of the runners, maybe they don't know where they're going with that, I don't know. It's an out. You want to get every out you possibly can. We felt like it was catchable."

...

"It's a tough play going into the wall, but I felt like I was there in enough time. Definitely changes how that inning goes, but nothing we can do about it now," Piscotty said. "I never understand when they're going to overturn stuff. I had a feeling they wouldn't."

The non-interference call was a tough break for the Athletics, no doubt, but it would be a cop out to blame the loss on that. The bases were loaded with one out at the time. Thing were already going haywire. The fan interference didn't make Trivino plunk Taylor Ward to reload the bases or groove a fastball to Cowart for the grand slam.

General rule of thumb: Don't reach over the wall and try to catch a ball in play, folks. Chances are you won't catch it -- the woman in Tuesday's play didn't catch the ball -- but you definitely will get kicked out of the ballpark.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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