MIAMI -- A crew-chief review of an out call at home plate resulted in an overturn during the Reds' 3-1 victory over the Marlins on Thursday night, setting off renewed controversy over the new rule established this season to protect catchers from contact from runners trying to score.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Cincinnati had the bases loaded and one out when Todd Frazier lifted a fly ball to Giancarlo Stanton in right field. Zack Cozart attempted to tag up and score from third base before Stanton's throw easily beat him to the plate. He was tagged out by catcher Jeff Mathis without sliding for what looked to be the inning-ending double play.
Not so fast.
"I really didn't know what to do, because [Mathis] was in front of the plate," Cozart said. "It was kind of an awkward thing to not be able to slide or anything. I had a good idea the call would get overturned."
Cozart and Reds manager Bryan Price argued that Mathis was blocking the lane to the plate for the runner to score. Following a lengthy six-minute, 10-second review, the call by home-plate umpire Mike Winters was overturned and Cozart was ruled safe, Frazier had a sacrifice fly and the Reds had their important game-tying run.
Mathis was ruled to be in violation of the newly instituted Rule 7.13 from Major League Baseball, which stipulates: "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."
"You sit here and you think about it and you wonder what you could've done and the route you could've taken to catch the baseball," Mathis said. "I could've made the play short-hop myself by getting out of the way and coming back to tag him. But I'm not going to do that. You get him a lane as the play develops and then you see where the ball goes and you catch it and make a tag. That's what I did."
Price realizes the rule may not be popular, but said that the right call was made because it was followed.
"Really, the controversy of it is the fact the rule is coming up against a lot of criticism right now," Price said. "The throw clearly beat our guy, Cozart, and he was out by a fairly reasonable margin. The catcher from the inception of the ball going off the bat had taken away the entire plate. He had separated the plate with his feet. His body was in the middle of the plate. It's not a tough call to make, but it's a tough judgment to have to take. We're trying to protect the catchers; I get it. I imagine in the offseason there will be some serious discussions about changing that rule."
A livid Marlins manager Mike Redmond argued with umpires and was promptly ejected. Perhaps the lengthy delay did not help reliever Bryan Morris, who quickly surrendered a two-run lined single to center field by Ryan Ludwick that put the Reds on top with the winning runs.
"I'll tell you as a former catcher in this league for 13 seasons, as a grinder who loves this game and respects this game so much, this game has been a part of my life forever," Redmond said. "To lose a ballgame tonight on that play is a joke. It's an absolute joke. I don't think anybody who plays this game should feel good about winning that game. And I would say that if had been reversed. That guy was out by 15 feet. It was a great baseball play."
Major League Baseball issued a statement Friday:
"The Replay Official judged that the catcher did not provide a lane to the runner and hindered his path to the plate without possession of the ball. The throw also did not force the catcher into the runner's pathway. As a result, in accordance with Rule 7.13, the ruling on the field was overturned and the run was allowed to score.
"We realize that people may reasonably have different opinions regarding the application of Rule 7.13 in any particular instance because it is a judgment call. We are continuously evaluating the application of the new rule, and we anticipate a full review with all appropriate parties in the off-season in order to determine whether any changes should be made. We also recognize that the exorbitant length of last night's review, which was more than three times the season average, must be avoided in the future.
"That said, the most important goal of this rule has been to eliminate dangerous collisions at home plate, and it cannot be disputed that the rule has been very effective toward achieving this purpose."
Cincinnati has been involved with a few disputes about blocking the plate this season, including two in one game vs. the Pirates earlier this season.
"Rules are rules. It's one of those that it can happen to anyone," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said. "It's one of those that you're used to because that's your nature. You have to go out there and protect that home plate and protect that run. But now you have to have it in the back of your mind that if you block home plate too early, they're going to return that play. It doesn't matter how good of a throw it is, it doesn't matter how far that runner is going to be out by. It's one of those where you just have to understand that they're rules and you have to apply it."
Price believes that change could come to Rule 7.13.
"I think tonight's play will be indicative of why we should go back to normal," he said.