I’ve got nothing but sympathy for Cincinnati outfielder Jason Bourgeois, who killed a potential Reds rally by needlessly breaking for home when he could have stayed safely at third. I know the infield fly rule by heart—and I’d bet Borgeoius does too—but it’s invoked so infrequently, and clashes so strongly with your reptile-brain instincts, that it’s all too easy to blank.
With fewer than two outs, and force plays available, an infield pop-up is declared an out even before the catch is made—or not made. It’s intended to prevent defenses from intentionally dropping a ball to quickly turn a double play, since the runners have stayed at their respective bases. It’s a quirk, but it’s supremely logical.
In the fifth inning, the Reds were down a run with the bases loaded and one out when Jay Bruce popped up. Pitcher Luke Hochevar and first baseman Eric Hosmer miscommunicated, and the ball dropped between them. The infield fly rule had been called; Bruce was out, and the runners could advance at their own risk. Bourgeois’s instincts made him break for home. He got beat easily.
The Reds clubhouse was closed after the game, so Bourgeois didn’t speak to reporters—not that there was much to say. Manager Bryan Price said the call of an infield fly came too late for Bourgeois to register it, and his reflexes took over.
“It was a late call by the umpire,” Price said. “They have to know an infielder has a routine play on the ball. Both the pitcher and first baseman were converging on the ball. Once the pitcher got under it, the home plate umpire signaled infield-fly.
“At that point in time, the ball was just getting ready to hit. I think (Bourgeois) felt in that situation obliged to run. There’s no fault on the umpires. They have to wait until that ball has a position player underneath until they rule infield fly. I think that was his reaction. It was an instinctive deal.”
“It was tough day. Tough day,” Price said. “He knows the rule. It was just a reaction.”
No more runs would be scored by either side, and the Royals took the game 4-3.