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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Odd Play: Dodgers 2, Giants 0

The Giants have a lot of problems, and they certainly didn't help themselves last night in a crucial game situation. With James Loney at first, Casey Blake hit a smash down the left field line; San Francisco LF Fred Lewis bobbled his pick of the ball, bouncing it up on the top of the low wall, and on, or at least near, the hand of a fan who wasn't paying attention. Lewist noticed Loney attempting to score all the way from first, and threw a bullet back to the infield, where third baseman Rich Aurilia threw a dart back to the plate to end the inning.

Or did he? With the ball on the wall, Lewis had knocked the ball out of play, and after a huddle, the umpires announced that Loney was free to score, akin to a two-base error when the pitcher muffs a pickoff toss and the ball ends in the stands. The appropriate rule is 7.05(f):

Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—


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;

Lewis, who apparently was uneducated to the realities of this rule, wasn't impressed:
“There’s not that much foul ground over there, so it’s one of those plays where you just try to get over there and not let the ball get past you,” he said. “It came up and bounced out of my glove, then went on top of the wall and I picked it up. That’s how far it went, and nobody touched it.

“I mean, the ball’s still in play. We told the umpire that, but it was his discretion. He said it was just on top and that it was out of play. But it’s still in play in my eyes. I didn’t understand the rule. It was very disappointing. It makes you want replay in baseball more and more.”

Vizquel, who has played more big league games at shortstop than anyone in history, said he had never seen a play like that.

“That was weird,” he said. “When the ball jumped into the stands, I thought the ball was going to be dead.”

Thus the Gold Glove shortstop proves his knowledge of baseball's sometimes arcane rules. But all this obscured a fine outing by journeyman Jason Johnson, whose last victory came a couple years ago with the Indians, a 9-0 win for the Tribe over the Tigers on May 28, 2006. Good for him, but you do wonder how well he'll likely stick; Johnson was 3-12 for three different teams that year.

Yahoo boxMLB.com recap

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