The rule that umpires can consult instant replays in order to decide their calls has been a part of the MLB for some time now (since 2008), but it is almost unheard of that a call decided in such a controversial fashion makes or breaks a game like it did last night, when it resulted in a San Francisco Giants win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks were trailing the Giants 2-1 when Arizona second baseman Rickie Weeks stepped up to the plate last night in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out and runners on first and third. Weeks ended up hitting a fast grounder that was flipped to second base for one out, and then hurled to first in an attempt for a double play that would result in the third out and a San Francisco win.
The throw to first was slightly off-target, though, and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt had to stretch so far to reach it that his foot came off the base. Not only was Weeks called safe as a result, but the runner from third base scored on the play. The ninth inning lead the Giants had just established during the top of that inning was a thing of the past. At least, that’s what the umpires said initially.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy thought the call that Belt was off the bag when he gained control of the baseball was questionable and, realizing the tremendous impact the call would make, he utilized baseball’s instant replay review rule.
“Belt made a heck of a play on that pick,” he said.
“And it happened so fast, the umpire thought he had to come off the bag.”
The umpires obliged Bochy’s request by walking over to the sidelines and donning pairs of black headsets in order to converse with analysts sitting in a control room in New York City.
The fans at Arizona’s Chase Field fell silent as they awaited the verdict from the umpires, and the San Francisco Giants’ official site reported that they were not the only ones; Bochy himself was on the edge of his seat as well.
“I guess it kind of makes the replay and the review exciting,” said San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy after the game.
“You’ve got a lot of fans and players waiting to see what the call’s going to be.”
Bochy has a point, as the waiting period must have been extremely tense for Arizona and San Francisco fans alike. After all, the Giants would instantly be awarded the win if the call was indeed overturned, and the game would stretch into extra innings (assuming Arizona would not score again that same inning) if it was upheld.
Eventually, one of the umpires walked out on the field and punched his fist in the air, indicating that the call had been reversed and Weeks was out. The Giants had won, and the small portion of orange and black in the predominantly red and gold sea of fans burst into applause.
Later, even the Diamondbacks manager, Chip Hale, would begrudgingly admit that the umpires had made the right call.
“That’s why we have video replay, and they got it right. It was the right call, and if you look at the video, it’s pretty obvious. We knew that.”
With the very unorthodox win, the San Francisco Giants managed to sweep their Arizona division rivals in a four-game series and chalk up their fifth consecutive win. The Giants’ record is now 22-18, the best of any team in the NL west, and the Diamondbacks’ record is 17-23, putting them in the cellar of the division.
San Francisco’s next matchup is at 7:10 p.m. tomorrow evening against the San Diego Padres.
[Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]