In the seventh inning of the Nationals' eventual 7-2 win over the Astros in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night, Trea Turner was called out for interfering with Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel on an attempted 1-3 putout. While the play wound up not mattering much, it was at the time a deeply controversial call and one that seemed for a while like it might affect the outcome of the entire series. Here's a look at the play:
Plate umpire Sam Holbrook ruled Turner out on interference, and instead of runners on second and third with no out the Nats were reduced a runner on first with one out. Anthony Rendon soon thereafter mitigated some of the harm with a two-run home run, but the call itself is going to be discussed for some time.
Not surprisingly, the Major League Baseball Umpires Association declared that Holbrook's call was correct:
The Correct Call;— Major League Baseball Umpires Association (@MLBUA) October 30, 2019
The runner is only allowed to EXIT the lane to touch 1st base. Turner was NOT IN THE LANE when he stepped towards first BASE and interfered with Guriel so he was NOT afforded the protection the lane provides. #MLBUA #2019WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/CFR28t0xpb
After Game 6, MLB's chief baseball office and Hall of Famer Joe Torre was asked about the call. Here's how he explained it:
"Well, he was called out because he ran, there's a 45-foot restraining line where you're supposed to run as a baserunner in between those lines," Torre said. "He ran to first base. That wasn't the call. The call was that he interfered with Gurriel trying to catch the ball -- you notice the glove came off his hand. That's when Sam Holbrook called him out for basically interference."
That's not the clearest exegesis, but it does make sense. Here's the relevant portion of Rule 5.09(a)(11):
In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs 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 interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of ) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;
As Torre explains, it's not that Turner ran on the improper side of the line; it's that he did it and then interfered with Gurriel. This somewhat conveniently ignores that Turner was already safe when he interfered with Gurriel, but that's another discussion.
Joe Torre: “The violation was when he (Trea Turner) kept Gurriel from being able to catch the ball. It’s a judgment call. The right call.”— Julia Morales (@JuliaMorales) October 30, 2019
Torre had more to say about the. First, the ejection:
And Torre's comments: "Davey was really out of control for a bit when he was yelling at Sam Holbrook."
As Torre went on to explain, Martinez had requested that the umpires go to the headset for clarification on the rule. They received that clarification and informed Martinez that it was a judgement call and in Holbrook's judgment interference had occurred. Martinez, as you saw above, found that explanation wanting.
As for Torre, he's no doubt hoping for a Game 7 that doesn't land him in front of the cameras once again.