The human element is really on a roll this week. Approximately 24 hours after the umpires in Cleveland reviewed an obvious home run and declared it wasn't a home run, another blue crew in Houston allowed the Astros to make a pitching change that is explictly prohibited by MLB's rules.
This time, the blunder didn't affect the outcome of the game because the Angels came back to win. But don't forget who's in charge out there, you guys.
The situation: With two outs in the top of the seventh, the Angels trailed 5-3 and had runners at first and second. Houston manager Bo Porter lifted right-hander Paul Clemens in favor of Wesley Wright, a lefty. Angels manager Mike Scioscia countered by pinch-hitting righty Luis Jiminez for lefty J.B. Shuck. Seeing this, Porter lifted Wright and replaced him with right-hander Hector Ambriz before Wright had even thrown a pitch to Jiminez.
Rule 3.05(b) specifically addresses a situation like this, and its language is unambiguous:
If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
Porter, for his part, thought what he did was within the rules:
My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Porter seemed to be referring to Rule 3.05(d), which was added this winter:
If a pitcher who is already in the game crosses the foul line on his way to take his place on the pitcher’s plate to start an inning, he shall pitch to the first batter until such batter is put out or reaches first base, unless the batter is substituted for, or the pitcher sustains an injury or illness which, in the judgment of the umpire-in-chief, incapacitates him from pitching. If the pitcher ends the previous inning on base or at bat and does not return to the dugout after the inning is completed, the pitcher is not required to pitch to the first batter of the inning until he makes contact with the pitcher’s plate to begin his warm-up pitches.
Porter's reading of 3.05(d) is incorrect because Wright had not started the inning. Scioscia was pissed, and with justification. He argued his case. The umps—Adrian Johnson, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O'Nora, Bill Welke—held a meeting of the minds, but they decided to let Ambriz pitch anyway. Because fuck you. Scioscia filed a protest, and play resumed. You can watch it all unfold here:
The protest is irrelevant now because the Angels scored three runs in the eighth and held on to win. Culbreth, the umps' crew chief, would only say after the game that he had no explanation for what happened:
"The only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office, and that's all I can tell you," Culbreth said.
Translation: Don't ask. The league office had this to say today: "The rule covering pitching changes was not applied correctly by the umpiring crew in the 7th inning."
Update: The umps have been punished.
Photo credit: Getty