7/27/2014 6:20 P.M. ET
Overturned call at plate gives Phils go-ahead run
Howard ruled safe after umps determine D-backs catcher Montero was in his lane
By Erik Bacharach / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of their 4-2 win against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park thanks to a play at the plate that was deemed a violation of Rule 7.13 after a crew-chief review.
With Ryan Howard on first and two outs, Marlon Byrd skied a popup to shallow right-center field. Second baseman Didi Gregorius backpedaled to get underneath it, but couldn't haul it in as he battled the sun, and the ball skipped off his glove. Center fielder Ender Inciarte ran to grab the ball as Howard, who was jogging up until that point, turned on the jets as he rounded third base.
Inciarte's throw beat Howard to the plate by about 12 feet, and the runner was ruled out. But catcher Miguel Montero appeared to have obstructed Howard's path home before he had possession of the ball.
The umpires on the field initiated a review to determine if there was a violation of Rule 7.13, which states, "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe."
After a two-minute, 55-second review, the out call was overturned, as the umpires determined that Montero was in Howard's path. The ruling gave the Phillies a 3-2 advantage.
"Very fortunate," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "This year, that's a run. Last 100 years, it's not a run."
"The game's been 100 years with that old rule; catchers have been getting run over for years," he said. "Now is the point where we needed a change? What for?"
The rule was implemented this season in order to discourage collisions at home plate. But for Montero and catchers around the league, it has taken some adjusting.
"I understand why they put it in play," Howard said. "I think it's definitely going to take a while for guys to kind of get used to. I think Montero, he's just used to being in that position. Some guys are going to have to learn to make that adjustment. It's tough for all of us right now."
After the ruling, Montero asked the umpires what he should have done in that situation.
"The throw took me there. I went and got the ball," Montero said. "They called I was blocking the plate. So I asked him what I should do in the future, because I don't want this to happen again. What should I do? They honestly didn't have an answer. They didn't know what to say. I would say the Major Leagues need to clean that up and figure out that rule and what it's going to be about."
In fact, Montero would have preferred to have gotten bulldozed by Howard -- which is the way the play would have likely transpired in every season prior to 2014 -- as opposed to all the confusion.
"I'd much rather get killed. Seriously, I'd much rather be run over. Come get me," Montero said.
"Obviously I have no clue where to go. The next inning we got another play and I'm like, 'OK, am I blocking the plate? Should I be worried to catch the ball? Should I be worried to block the plate? Should I be worried to not block the plate?' They make things so difficult with that new rule."
Sandberg offered a suggestion.
"Just be up further into fair territory," he said. "Whether it's two or three feet, just so that the runner can see home plate and know that that's where he's going and that's where he's going to slide. That's what we've been teaching the runners and the catchers."
But both managers who saw how the rule impacted the game on Sunday were in agreement that it needs, at the very least, some fine-tuning.
"I think they'll evaluate plays and the calls this year and they'll try to clean it up" D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "They've already tried to clean that play up one or two times this year, but it just went against us this year."
"All the other replays seem to be pretty cut and dried and working pretty smoothly with consistency," Sandberg said. "The play at home plate, there's a lot of judgement there and a little bit of confusion. Even three-and-a-half months into the season here, the catcher did not know that he couldn't stand there the whole time."
It was the second replay review of the game that worked in Philadelphia's favor.
In the first inning, Sandberg won a challenge on a play at first base in which Montero was originally called safe.
With a runner on first and two outs, Montero hit a dribbler toward first base, and both starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez and first baseman Howard charged at it. Hernandez came up with the ball and flipped it to Chase Utley, who was covering first. Utley beat Montero to the bag by a full step, but the question was whether Utley had tagged the base with his foot.
Sandberg immediately got the word to challenge the call, and after a brief review, the ruling on the field was overturned.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.