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#pounditFriday, August 12, 2022

Nationals get robbed by bizarre MLB rule

Dave Martinez looking on

Jul 3, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez (4) looks on during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates were the beneficiaries of a bizarre and obscure MLB rule Wednesday in their game against the Washington Nationals.

With runners at second and third and one out in the fifth, Pirates infielder Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a line drive right to Nationals first baseman Josh Bell. Both Pittsburgh baserunners went on contact, with Jack Suwinski going for home and Hoy Jun Park going to third. Thus, all Bell had to do was throw to third, where Park was standing despite not tagging up. On paper, that’s an easy tag and an inning-ending double play.

There was one issue, however — Suwinski crossed home plate before Park could be tagged out. His run actually wound up counting even though he didn’t tag up either. MLB rules state that appeals on whether a runner left early must be made before the next pitch or the defensive team leaves the field. Rule 5.09c(4) states that on players where a “fourth out” may be possible, the defense must appeal both outs and can take the one that gives it the advantage.

In other words, the Nationals failed to appeal whether Suwinski left third base early, then left the field. By rule, that meant the Nationals had declined to appeal, so Suwinski’s run was allowed to score.

A lengthy delay followed as the Nationals argued their case, and it’s hard to blame them for being upset. Few would have been aware of a rule this obscure, and it seemed like a logical assumption that two outs had been made and the half inning was over. To make matters worse, the umpires did not give any indication that Suwinski’s run was going to count until after the Nationals had already left the field, so they were not even aware that an appeal was necessary.

Pittsburgh wound up winning the game 8-7.

A number of odd rules have come up so far in the MLB season. This one, however, might be the strangest so far.

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