Red Sox infuriated by game-changing blown call on double play
Red Sox have a legitimate gripe with the umpires in their latest loss
The Boston Red Sox wrapped up a six-game west coast road trip through Oakland and Anaheim in which five of the contests were decided by one run. The margin of error was slim in each series, which is why it was so frustrating that an umpire’s mistake was partially responsible for costing the Red Sox a chance at a winning record on the trip.
Boston trailed 4-3 in the sixth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s finale against the Angels when Christian Vazquez stepped to the plate with runners on first and second. Vazquez hit a chopper up the middle that was scooped by second baseman David Fletcher, who flipped it to shortstop José Iglesias to initiate the double play.
While this appeared to be a routine twin killing, the slick-fielding Iglesias missed the second base bag before twirling to fire to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Christian Arroyo immediately protested that he should be safe since a force out can’t be called if the fielder doesn’t touch the base. The Red Sox challenged the play but the umpires upheld the call after video review.
Instead of having two runners in scoring position with two outs, the inning was over. The Red Sox managed to come away with one run in the sixth to trim the deficit to one but they had an opportunity to do more damage and potentially could have taken the lead.
Manager Alex Cora disagreed with the umpire’s decision when asked about it after the game, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.
"“There’s no more neighborhood play,” said Cora. “I know he’s good at short, he makes great plays and has some great footwork but the angles that I saw, I didn’t agree with (second base umpire Alfonso Marquez). Obviously, he’s closer than me. It was going to be second and third and two outs. I didn’t agree with the call but he’s closer than me, so he had a better view.”"
The “neighborhood play” refers to an old rule that allowed an umpire to call a force out as long as the fielder came reasonably close to touching second base. The intent was to protect infielders from base runners sliding into second in an attempt to disrupt a double play. The rules have changed to prohibit takeout slides, so now that they no longer need to be concerned about having their legs taken out from under them, there’s no reason for umpires to be so lenient with the call.
Instant replay has led to umpires meticulously breaking down plays in slow motion from every angle. The fielder taking his foot off the bag an instant too soon can be enough to sway the decision toward a safe call. Yet, in this case, the umpires decided, “Meh, close enough.”
I’ve watched the video dozens of times and can’t find any point that clearly shows Iglesias tagged the bag. Unfortunately, overturning a call on replay requires clear evidence that he did not touch second base. It’s possible that the umpires felt the play was too close to overturn so the call on the field would have stood either way. The sliding Arroyo briefly obscures the camera’s view and that was potentially enough to create the uncertainty that led the umpires sticking with the out call.
The decision cost Boston the opportunity to tack on more runs, which could have been pivotal in a game they lost by one. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to say it cost the the game. We can’t overlook that an overturned call allowing the inning to continue would have brought Bobby Dalbec to the plate against right-hander Steve Cishek. Dalbec is batting a woeful .185 against right-handed pitching this season. Cishek has held right-handed bats to a .215 average. Let’s just say the odds weren’t in Boston’s favor.
A slim chance is still better than no chance at all though. The Red Sox are understandably miffed that their rally was cut short by a questionable call. It was a frustrating way to end a road trip but going .500 against a pair of quality teams on the west coast is hardly a harbinger of doom.
The Red Sox get a day off before a weekend series at home to wrap up the first half of the season. If they can ride into the All-Star break on a winning streak while maintaining their lead in the AL East, Boston will be in great shape coming out of the break.