Umpiring has been a topic of conversation throughout the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. Whatever hopes Major League Baseball had of that changing with Game 6 were erased in the top of the seventh inning, when Nationals shortstop Trea Turner hit a weak grounded toward third base. Pitcher Brad Peacock fielded the ball and delivered an inaccurate throw to first baseman Yuli Gurriel that permitted Turner and Yan Gomes, who had been stationed on first, to advance to second and third base with no outs.
Alas, what appeared to be a routine sequence soon turned eventful, as home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook ruled Turner out and required Gomes to return to first base. Take a look at the play here:
The reason? Holbrook believed Turner had violated rule 5.09(a)(11) which goes as stated in the rule book:
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;
In other words, Holbrook believed Turner had stepped outside of his lane on the way to first base and in doing so had obstructed Gurriel from making a play on the ball.
The rule book also offers this additional comment on said rule:
The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter-runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the threefoot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.
Predictably, Turner and the Nationals were irate. Turner had to be held back by Asdrubal Cabrera in the dugout, and was seen making references to Joe Torre, who is MLB's chief baseball officer during a lengthy video review. The play was upheld after the aforementioned review, and Washington manager Dave Martinez was ejected for giving Holbrook the what for between innings.
The Nationals then asked to play the rest of the game under protest for a misapplication of the above rule:
After the game, Torre explained the thought process behind the questionable call on the telecast with Ken Rosenthal:
"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."
Those who believe the ball doesn't lie -- as NBA player Rasheed Wallace once quipped -- will be pleased to learn that Anthony Rendon hit a home run a few batters later to break the game open and secure a 7-2 win for Washington to force a Game 7 on Wednesday.
Still, Turner's play is certain to be one of the most discussed parts of Game 6 -- now and heading forward.