Once again, Scott Hairston found himself in the cross-hairs of San Francisco Giants’ fans.
This time it wasn’t for delivering a game-winning hit or belting a home run against the Giants.
It was for a slide, an interpreted legal slide that led to an errant throw by Posey and cost the Giants a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday.
Let’s set the stage for those who missed it.
The bases were loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a bouncer to first baseman Brandon Belt. Belt threw home to force out Scott Hairston. As Posey went to throw the ball back to first in an attempt to double up Nieuwenhuis and end the inning, Hairston slid into Posey, clipping the catcher’s right foot and causing him to fall just as he threw the ball to first.
Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets scored the winning run.
All media reports, including Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, called the slide a legal play. Despite Posey’s objections that he was interfered with, Hairston was ruled to be in the base line because he was able to make contact with the plate with his hand as he slid into Posey.
But here’s the point no one is talking about.
Why should a player who has been forced out be allowed to impact the play LONG AFTER he’s been eliminated from the play?
In fact, the rule book says he should not.
Rule 7.09(d) on batter on runner interference states:
“Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.”
Pretty cut and dried. Except that there is an additional comment that opens that rule up for interpretation.
“If the batter or runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”
It is that comment that allows runners sliding into second to attempt to break up double plays. But this play was not like a play at second when the runner is going hard into the base just as the infield receives the throw, forces the runner out and makes the throw to first in a bang-bang fashion.
Hairston was forced out at the plate while he was still a good 20 feet away from the plate.
Take a look at the photo at the top of this post.
Posey has already caught the ball, forced out Hairston and now the ball is in his throwing hand, ready to be released — and Hairston HAS NOT YET started his slide.
He’s already out. LONG OUT. At what point is a runner no longer be allowed to be part of the play? At what point is it purely interference and not just considered part of the completion of the play?
On this play, Hairston’s slide that clipped Posey was CLEARLY not part of the “act alone” of continuing to advance on the play. It was a deliberate effort to continue the play after he had been forced out with the explicit intent to interfere with the defender.
The only reason why Hairston was given the opportunity to interfere with Posey was that Posey hestitated briefly before throwing because pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was running to cover first base. (Now, there’s a secondary question about whether since it was Affeldt covering first whether Posey should have attempted the throw at all. But that’s not really pertinent to the argument we are making here.)
So MoreSplashHits contends that if a runner has not yet started his slide by the time he is forced out at any base, then he should be considered out on interference if he comes in contact with the defender.
Bruce Bochy and the Giants tried to lobby MLB to alter its rules about making contact with the catcher at the plays at the plate in an effort to protect catchers in the wake of Posey’s season-ending injury.
But at least when Scott Cousins barreled into Posey last May, he was a live runner on the basepaths. Even if Posey had caught the ball and maintained possession to record the out on Cousins, Cousins still would have been a live runner on the basepaths until contact was made with Posey.
In this case, Hairston was not a live baserunner. He was out, when he was allowed to contact the catcher.
MoreSplashHits believes Hairston should have been called out on interference.
That’s our interpretation of the rule. And it’s the proper interpretation of the rule.
What do you think?
I spent Monday afternoon watching Game 1 of the Giants’ twinbill in New York. But I missed most of the nightcap, which was too bad because it looked like fun.
So we’ll piece together some tidbits about the Giants in 2012 after a doubleheader sweep.
- Pablo Sandoval went 3 for 9 with a home run and two singles in the doubleheader, extending his season-opening hitting streak to 16 games and matching Willie Mays for the San Francisco Giants record of hitting streaks to open the season.
- Nate Schierholtz went 6 for 10 with two triples, a home run and stolen base in the doublheader. He’s hitting a team-best .372 this season. Heading to Cincinnati, expect to see more Nate the Great.
- On a day when Aubrey Huff left the team to attend to a family emergency (the Giants hope to have him back Tuesday), manager Bruce Bochy said he’s looking for someone to step up offensively at first base. Brandon Belt went 1 for 4 with a double in the opener (he’s hitting .240). Also, no strikeouts. Brett Pill got a rare start against a RH pitcher and went 2 for 3 in the nightcap and 3 for 4 for the DH (he’s hitting .353 in limited action). Bochy even mentioned the option of using more of Buster Posey at 1B.
- While mentioning Posey at 1B, Hector Sanchez hit his first big-league home run during the nightcap.
- The Game 1 victory was the first for the Giants in a game in which Belt started at 1B. They are 1-5 with Belt starting at first base, 8-2 with someone else.
- Madison Bumgarner’s 7 IP, 1 earned run outing on Monday was the Giants’ 10th quality start of the season. Also, the most recent starts by Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito would have been quality starts if they could have pitched into and through the sixth inning.
- The Giants have scored 4+ runs in every road game this season (10 total).
- The Giants have won every series (four) since being swept in Arizona to open the season.
- Giants starting pitchers have an ERA of 0.86 in three starts in road games on Monday.
- The Giants made it through 18 innings Monday without committing an error. CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly commented: “It helped that Huff didn’t play an inning in the field.” Ouch!
- SS Brandon Crawford broke out his recent funk by going 3 for 8 in the doubleheader.
The Giants open a three-game series Tuesday in Cincinnati. Matt Cain, he of the 18 consecutive scoreless innings, starts against Mat Latos at 4:10 p.m. The Giants will face right-handed starters in the series: Barry Zito vs. Bronson Arroyo, 4:10 p.m. Wednesday; Ryan Vogelsong vs. Homer Bailey, 9:35 a.m. Thursday.
A look at the box score Monday in New Yokr may give the appearance that everything is right with Tim Lincecum.
The Freak gave up one run on five hits and struck out eight. Sounds good, right?
He also walked five and labored to get through five innings, throwing 108 pitchers (60 for strikes).
So instead of being wild in the zone (as he has been in his first three starts), Lincecum was wild out of the zone. When he got ahead 0-2, instead of giving up 0-2 hits, he threw balls that we’re easily out of strike zone — easy takes, as Mike Krukow put it.
And he did this even after the Giants had given him a 5-1 lead or 6-1 lead.
If you’re up five runs, with no one on base, throw strikes.
It seemed, at times, that even when Lincecume wasn’t to throw strikes, he could not.
He threw no fewer than 17 pitches in any of his innings, throwing between 22-28 pitches in the second through fourth innings.
He loaded the bases in the fifth on two walks and a single, but got out of it when Emmanuel Burriss bailed him out by turning a nice double play on Lincecum’s 108th pitch.
Lincecum came into this season trying to focus on throwing more strikes and avoiding walks. He walked 86 batters last season, second most in the National League.
Coming into Monday’s game, he had walked only four. He walked five on Monday. So the approach may have changed some.
But he still needs to find command of his fastball.
Like we mentioned before, the Mets are not raking the ball right now, so it was a favorable matchup for Lincecum to work out his kinks.
He’ll get another favorable matchup in his next start, at home Saturday against the NL-worst hitting Padres.
But then after that, it’s at home against the Brewers on May 4 and at the Dodgers on May 9.
So the Freak needs to get this thing ironed out soon.
Giants fandom has been squealing all season about how Brandon Belt must be starting at first base for the Giants, even as the young first baseman has been hitting below the Mendoza Line and Aubrey Huff was having success at the plate.
But now Belt is hitting above the Mendoza Line … and Huff is not.
Belt is now hitting .238. Huff is hitting .182 after a 1-for-16 skid that included an 0-for-4 day reminiscent of the 2011 Huff (two infield pop ups and two ground balls to the right-side of the infield).
And as if that were not enough to compell manager Bruce Bochy to start Belt on Sunday, the Lord intervened on Saturday in New York.
With two on and two out in the top of the ninth and the Giants down 4-2, Bochy sent Belt to the plate as a pinch hitter.
After falling behind in the count, Belt hit what appeared to be a game-ending pop up to shortstop.
But as shortstop Ruben Tejada drifted out into the outfield, it looked as if maybe Belt’s hit could drop between Tejada and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Then as Nieuwenhuis came charging in, the ball inexplicably fell behind the Mets center fielder. In the scorebook, it was a two-run, game-tying double for Belt.
If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.
But in the end, it didn’t matter much because the wackiness didn’t end there.
Bochy’s penchant for making move-upon-move — a strategy that paid off with a victory Friday night — ending up biting the Giants manager on Saturday.
First, in the top of the ninth, Bochy had his backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, hit for his shortstop Brandon Crawford to avoid having the lefty Crawford hit against the lefty Tim Byrdak. It was a risky move considering that the Giants’ lone backup infielder, Ryan Theriot, was still not available because of illness.
And the move didn’t pay off when Sanchez struck out.
Then Bochy had Brett Pill pinch-hit for the pitchers’ spot. Now, it’s worth noting that Pill actually had some experience playing second base last year at Triple-A Fresno and took some grounders at second prior to Saturday’s game.
But after Pill was announced as the hitter, the Mets brought in right-hander Jon Rauch. So Bochy then had Belt hit for Pill, taking Pill out of the game.
That move worked — because God decreed it to be so.
But in the bottom of the inning, it forced Bochy into a most unusal defensive alignment. Emmanuel Burriss went to shortstop, Belt went for first and Aubrey Huff went to second.
Yes, we said Aubrey Huff at second base.
Now, in 1,234 games in 13 major-league seasons, how many times, prior to Saturday, had Huff played second base?
Even in 339 minor-league games, he had never played second.
And it showed.
After a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners on first and second with one out, Mike Baxter hit, in normal defensive alignments, what should have been a custom-made double-play ball to shortstop. But in this defensive alignment, it should have at least produced a force out at second.
One problem, though. When Baxter hit the ball directly at Burriss at short, Huff broke toward first base. He actually broke toward first base.
By the time Huff realized he was playing SECOND BASE, Burriss had to adjust quickly and throw to first. But the throw to first was late and Baxter was safe (even though replays indicated he was out).
Now, we have the bases loaded and one out.
Nieuwenhuis followed by hitting a grounder to Belt, who threw to home to force out Scott Hairston.
And this is where Buster Posey, who made two great defensive plays to bail out the Giants in the eighth, made a bad decision.
Posey tried to throw back to Belt at first to double up the fast Nieuwenhuis. When Scott Hairston’s slide home clipped Posey in the foot (another questionable call by the umpire to allow that), Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets won.
Tim Lincecum hopes to get things figure out when he faces Dillon Gee in 10:10 a.m. Sunday.
Here’s a list of players Bruce Bochy used in Friday’s win in New York.
No, wait. It’s probably easier to go with the players he DIDN’T use.
Ryan Theriot (he was too sick to fly with the team Thursday; he flew out Friday)
In other words, Bochy used everybody except his Aunt Jemima on Friday.
“I even played,” pitcher Matt Cain quipped.
Yes, he did. So let’s relive the carousel of players.
With the lefty Jonathan Niese on the mound for the Mets, the Giants went with a righty-heavy lineup.
- CF Angel Pagan
- RF Melky Cabrera
- 3B Pablo Sandoval
- 1B Buster Posey
- LF Brett Pill (his first career start in left)
- C Hector Sanchez
- 2B Emmanuel Burriss
- SS Brandon Crawford
- P Barry Zito
Pill was the first to go. After he grounded out in the top of the fifth to complete an 0-for-3 night, Bochy put Nate Schierholtz in RF and slid Cabrera over to LF for a better defensive lineup.
Then came Zito. He had another solid outing (5 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits), but umpire Kerwin Danley’s fickle strike zone led to three walks and a lot of deep counts. Zito hit the 100-pitch mark by the end of the fifth.
So when Zito’s spot in the batting order came up in the sixth — and with Bochy now down to three available hitters on his bench — the skipper sent up Cain to bat for Zito. Cain struck out.
Guillermo Mota entered the game and pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, including two strikeouts.
When the left-handed hitting Josh Thole was brought in to pinch-hit for catcher Mike Nickeas to lead off the seventh, Bochy brought lefty Jeremy Affeldt in for Mota. Affeldt set down all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings.
Brandon Belt pinch-hit for Affeldt in the ninth, striking out on three pitches.
Belt stayed in the game in the bottom of the ninth in Bochy’s first double-switch of the game, replacing Posey at first base. Santiago Casilla took the mound.
But Casilla threw only two pitches, giving up a leadoff infield single to Jason Bay. With a string of lefties due up, Bochy yanked Casilla and brought in Javier Lopez.
Lopez got Lucas Duda to fly out before walking Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Josh Thole’s single tied the game and put the winning run on third base.
Bochy then pulled his second double-switch, bringing in Sergio Romo to pitch and Gregor Blanco to play CF in place of Angel Pagan.
Romo got Mike Baxter to ground into a fielder’s choice on a great play by Belt at first and Sanchez at the plate. Belt fielded the chopper from Baxter, spun and threw a strike at home, where Sanchez put a sweep tag on Nieuwenhuis. Romo then struck out Ruben Tejada.
Sanchez was the hero in the top of the 10th, too, when he singled home Melky Cabrera with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the 10th, Romo gave up back-to-back singles to Daniel Murphy and David Wright to open the inning. Out came Bochy again for his third double switch.
“He got his cardio in,” Affeldt quipped about his manager.
This time, Bochy went to Clay Hensley, and brought in Aubrey Huff to play LF with Cabrera going to RF and Schierholtz coming out.
The idea here was if the Mets tied the game again and sent it into the 11th, the pitcher’s spot would be up third. So instead of bringing Hensley in, then having to have Huff pinch-hit for him in the 11th, which would force Bochy to bring in his last reliever (Dan Otero), the double-switch would allow Hensley to pitch the 11th, if needed, by having Huff hit in the pitcher’s spot.
Any defensive liabilities that Huff might bring to the outfield alignment were negated by an outstanding job by Hensley. He got Ike Davis to ground out, then struck out Jason Bay and finally got Duda to fly out to center to end the game.
Bochy told Casilla he would be getting the lion’s share of closing opportunities. But he added that he would also play matchups.
“Throw ’em out there and hope it works out,” Bochy explained.
It did Friday.
Ryan Vogelsong takes on Mike Pelfrey in Game 2 of this four-game series. First pitch is at 10:10 a.m.