About that interference call
Somebody in the Comerica Park box office put it best: No matter whether the umpires ruled on the eighth-inning interference call, whether Jhonny Peralta was allowed to score or had to stay at third base, one manager was going to get thrown out of the game.
Since Peralta came home with the go-ahead run and wasn’t sent back, it was Twins manager Ron Gardenhire getting tossed. And upon further review, he might have been right to react that way.
It was a very close play from a distance that no umpire usually has to make a ruling like that. And to be fair, I can’t be sure whether crew chief Gary Darlling actually meant that the fan in the orange shirt committed the interference that was called, or whether he was one of the people who touched it after one of the fans leaning over the railing touched it. The latter makes more sense, and from the camera angles available during the game, I thought it was hard to tell. It seemed like the indication on the field was that the second fan leaning over the railing might have touched it. One would think it would’ve been easier to tell from field level.
But if it really was the fan in the orange who was the first to touch the ball, replays showed he wasn’t leaning out into the field of play to do it. He really wasn’t leaning out at all until after the ball hit the boy beside him. That’s the difference between an interference call and a ground-rule double, which is the difference between an umpire’s discretion to allow a runner coming around third to score, and an automatic two-base ruling which would’ve left Peralta at third.
“I don’t care who it hit,” Gardenhire said. “When it hits a fan in the stands, it’s a ground-rule double and you don’t score. However you want to call it, that guy doesn’t score. So it doesn’t make sense to me, and what they told me didn’t make any sense, either.”
I’ve seen people on the message boards make the case that Delmon Young paid for giving up on that play too quickly, that he was supposedly too lazy to run it down and make a play at the
play plate. Sorry, but whatever the ruling, I’m not buying that. Every player I can think of on highlights like that goes for the interference signal as soon as they notice it. I’ve never heard anybody coached not to do that. The sooner the signal, the sooner the call, the better chance of getting the runner held at third. If the two sides were reversed and it’s, say, Ryan Raburn or Andy Dirks in left field and he plays through the play, he would be crucified for not making it clear that ball was interfered with.
Let’s be honest: That’s a play where, based on how the umpires rule, whichever team benefits from the call supposedly did everything right to sell it. And on the other side, somebody will use it as further evidence for expansion of replay review.
Remember all the calls that went against the Tigers last year around this time? Jim Joyce? The phantom strike three on Johnny Damon in Atlanta? Well, this one went in their favor.
A few other notes before I finish up what’s left of this holiday weekend:
- If you thought Brad Penny was throwing a lot more curveballs than usual, you would be right. According to brooksbaseball.net, using data from MLB.com Gameday, 28 of Penny’s 105 pitches were curveballs, or about 26 percent. That’s double the percentage of curveballs from all his previous outings this season, according to fangraphs.com. Both Penny and Alex Avila said the curveball was working well and they wanted to establish it early, then it waned a bit later. By contrast, brooksbaseball.net had him with only 14 sinkers today, a lot less than he’s been throwing it lately. But fastball command probably played into that.
- Jim Leyland talked after the game about guys needing to expand their strike zone just a bit when they get into two-strike counts in situations where they need to put the ball in play to get a run in. He said that comes with experience. Still, it’s hard to accuse Austin Jackson of not expanding his strike zone, sometimes a little too much in some situations.
- For all that will be made of Leyland’s decision to hit Casper Wells in place of Andy Dirks, it’s very difficult to dismiss the righty-lefty idea in that situation, especially with Phil Dumatrait on the mound. Wells played with Dumatrait at Triple-A Toledo early last season. For Wells so far this season, the splits are reversed, he has actually been a little better against right-handers than left-handers, and his strikeout rate is higher against lefties.