Baseball is a unique sport filled with situations that you may only see once every few years, if at all. Umpires must be prepared to rule on these situations in real time, but we have our own expert to rely upon. Brandon Magee explains why the umpires sent Ryan Raburn home on a Little League walk-off against the Chicago Cubs.
Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. And yet, it still provides long-time spectators events that they have never seen before – or will again. As baseball fans, we are well aware of the written and unwritten rules that govern the game. And sometimes, the game doesn’t go final immediately as the winning run touches the plate.
On August 19 at Coors Field, the Rockies trailed the Chicago Cubs by a run with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning. With Nick Hundley on first after a single, Ryan Raburn strode to the plate to face the fireballing closer of the Cubs, Aroldis Chapman. And on the fifth pitch of the encounter, with Hundley in motion, Raburn crushed a pitch to deep right field:
Ben Zobrist fielded the ball cleanly off the wall and threw the ball into his relay partner, shortstop Addison Russell, who turned and fired towards home to catch the streaking Hundley at the plate. However, Russell’s throw drifted up the third baseline and catcher Wilson Contreras couldn’t corral the errant throw as it bounced past him and into the Rockies’ dugout. Hundley scored the tying run and the umpires allowed Raburn to trot home as well, giving the Rockies an apparent Little League Walk-Off.
The Rule in play in this situation is 5.06(b)(4)(G):
Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance:
Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made.
Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon quickly raced out of the dugout to dispute the plating of Raburn. There is additional information in the form of an approved ruling regarding how to determine the placement of runners in this situation:
The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands.
We can see using this still from the video that Raburn had already passed second base as Russell got ready to uncork his wild pitch to the plate:
The umpire’s conversation with the video technician in New York took little time as it was quickly confirmed that Raburn legally took second base at the time of the throw, and was entitled to two additional bases, scoring the winning run by rule.