Driving rain, a strong wind that made applying the infield tarp a struggle and incandescent flashes of lighting delayed the official conclusion of a game Wednesday night between the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. The wait was a formality. The game had been decided long before.
Poor execution off the mound and in the field led to an 11-4 loss to the Reds at PNC Park after a delay of 1 hour, 15 minutes. The Reds scored seven runs in the third inning on the way to handing the Pirates their third loss in a row.
Though neither video review had much of a bearing on the blowout, two separate crew chief reviews concerning Rule 7.13, the new provision governing collisions at home plate, brought the gray areas of the rule into stark relief.
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s and adjustment to be made,” said Russell Martin, who saw his forceout at the plate overturned. “I think there’s an adjustment to the rule.”
The Pirates’ problems began with Edinson Volquez, who needed 64 pitches to record seven outs and allowed eight runs on six hits. He walked three, hit one and threw two wild pitches, one that allowed a run to score and another that put a runner on third. That runner would later score on a sacrifice fly.
“I had no feeling for the ball and was struggling with all my pitches,” said Volquez, who could tell warming up in the bullpen that he did not have his stuff.
In addition to the wild pitches, a throw went to the wrong base and nobody fielded another throw, allowing a runner to advance.
Twelve Reds batters used seven hits, a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch to score seven runs in the third, which also saw the beginning of the replay theatrics. Rule 7.13, adopted in spring training in an effort to reduce violent collisions between catchers and baserunners, prohibits the catcher from blocking the runner’s path to the plate unless he has the ball and the runner from intentionally bowling over a catcher in an attempt to dislodge the ball.
With the bases loaded, Reds starter Alfredo Simon bounced a slow roller to reliever Stolmy Pimentel’s right. Pimentel fielded it and threw home to Martin, who had his right foot on the plate to record the forceout. Devin Mesoraco slid into Martin’s foot, but home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro called him out.
“When it becomes a force play, then there should be something in there that you don’t have to abide by the same rules as a tag play,” Martin said.
“I wouldn’t have done anything different myself,” Mesoraco, the Reds’ catcher, said.
The issue arose again when Pedro Alvarez doubled to center in the fifth. Gregory Polanco singled — giving him a hit in each of his first eight games — and Alvarez tried to score. Mesoraco’s left foot blocked Alvarez’s path to the plate, so Alvarez slid around it, and DiMuro ruled him out.
Crew chief Jerry Layne initiated another review, and though the umpires in the replay command center decided Mesoraco didn’t block the plate, they ruled Alvarez safe because his left hand hit the plate before the tag.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was ejected after arguing the overturned call, said he spoke to MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre Wednesday night about the challenges the collision rule presents.
“We’re still working our way through finding out what is and what isn’t obstruction at the plate,” he said.
“Definition of rules, interpretation of rules and common sense all need to play a part in it.”
The blowout reached the point where outfielder Travis Snider entered to pitch and faced Reds reliever J.J. Hoover in Hoover’s first major league plate appearance. Snider allowed two runs but struck out Joey Votto to end the top of the ninth.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 19, 2014 12:00 AM