Explaining Berry’s steal attempt, Avila’s out
Quintin Berry has never been caught stealing in his brief Major League career, 19-for-19 in stolen bases. On Saturday, he tried and failed to get thrown out on purpose, twice.
It took another half-inning and a Tigers run taken off the scoreboard to figure out what he was doing and why. He was trying to get thrown out so he could save the Tigers a run, an idea that came out third-base coach Gene Lamont’s knowledge of the rulebook.
“I’ve gotta do whatever I’ve gotta do for the team,” Berry said. “I just wonder what everybody was thinking at home, watching on TV. I know everybody’s like, ‘Man, he just thinks he’s invisible out there. He’s going to try to run on anything.'”
The situation comes out of Alex Avila’s slide into third base on his way home on Asdrubal Cabrera’s errant throw. Avila slid on the outside of the bag, around third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, and took off for home, scoring without a throw.
Replay is close, showing Avila either just hitting the outside of the bag or popping up out of his slide too early before turning for home. Third-base umpire Wally Bell was right next to the play, and clearly decided the latter.
Avila, for his part, thought he touched it.
“I thought I slid right into it,” Avila said. “As soon as I slid and popped up, I went home and I wasn’t even thinking about it. It’s one of those things where when you’re running, I don’t think about the bag. I just know where it is, so I’m not looking for it. And when I slid, I was trying to get out of Chisenhall’s way because I looked back and saw him.”
Replay, in turns out, is where the Indians noticed.
“We didn’t see it right off the bat,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Some guys kind of saw it from the dugout. One of our coaches went down to watch the video about Lonnie’s situation at third base. We found out through that. The pitching change kind of helped and gave us time to appeal the play.”
Before they knew to appeal, the Indians had pulled starter Justin Masterson in favor of lefty reliever Tony Sipp to face Omar Infante. There was enough buzz in the Indians dugout that Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont caught on to what was happening and had a talk with Berry.
“We really weren’t aware of anything until they came down,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Someone must have seen the replay and they came down to yell at them to appeal. So Gene, knowing that they probably saw it on the replay, told Berry to take off, because if they make a play on Berry, then they can’t make the appeal.”
It had to be a foreign idea to Berry, trying to get thrown out. He had never done anything like it.
“Once [Lamont] explained it to me, I knew,” Berry said. “It was smart. I talked to him during the pitching change.”
It was a pretty good knowledge of the rules.
According to rule 7.10, “any appeal … must be made before the next pitch, or any attempted play.”
By that rule, especially the attempted play part, even if Sipp had whirled to look at Berry and made a play towards him, then the Indians would have lost their chance to appeal.
The rule also states, “if the defense team errs on its first appeal, a request for a second appeal on the same runner at the same base shall not be allowed by the umpire.”
In other words, had Berry rushed Sipp into a bad throw to third, wide of the base, they would have lost their chance to appeal.
Simply put, Berry didn’t have to cause an out. All he had to do was cause a reaction.
“Very strange play,” Berry said. “Even the umpires didn’t know what was going on right away. And then one of the umpires came over and was like, ‘Man, that was a pretty smart play, trying to do that.’ Because if they make an attempt at me, they can’t appeal it, and we keep the run.”
The initial ruling from the official scorer was that Berry was caught stealing, thus taking a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. Umpires called up to the press box after the next half-inning to make sure the ruling was understood.
The resulting change, however, was anything but clear. Sanchez retired the Indians in order in the bottom of the fifth, the score on the board was still 5-0. For a brief moment, the board read a 10-0 Detroit lead, drawing a cheer from a few Tigers fans, before going back to 4-0.
“I was hoping, but that was wishful thinking,” Leyland said. “I only went to high school, but I knew we didn’t have 10.”