The Mariners edged the Reds 5 – 3 on September 11, 2019, but needed 28 outs to get the job done. With bases loaded and two outs, pinch hitter, Derek Dietrich, tried to check his swing on an 0-2 count. Home plate umpire, John Libka pointed down to third base umpire, Paul Nauert, to get a check swing ruling. Nauert ruled strike three on Dietrich. But as Dietrich recoiled the bat trying to hold back on the swing, the ball made contact with Dietrich’s bat. The ball bounced past Narvaez all the way to the backstop. Dietrich ran to first base and the runner from third base, Tucker Barnhart came in to score.
Mariners’ manager, Scott Servais ran out of the dugout to contest the call and the umpires convened to discuss but would not overturn the call. The tying run had moved to second base. Servais was escorted back to the dugout by bench coach, Manny Acta. But when the stadium video board ran a replay that clearly showed contact by Dietrich’s “follow-through” Servais stormed onto the field again. This time he was ejected and eventually play resumed with the Reds still very much in the game.
Servais argued correctly that when Dietrich’s bat contacted the ball on the “follow-through” the ball should have been called “dead” and no runners advance. Since it was strike three on Dietrich, the game should have ended right there. But none of the umpires saw the ball contact Dietrich’s bat. This is not a reviewable play so Mariners were forced to get one more out to finally win the game.
This is a rare play but it is covered in the OBR, 6.03(a)(3)(4) Comment.
“If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and in the umpire’s judgment unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of the batter on the follow-through or backswing while the batter is still in the batter’s box, it shall be called a strike only (no interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play.”
A similar play happened a few years ago in Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cubs and the Nationals.
Cubs, Javier Baez at the plate and he swings and misses at an 0-2 slider from Max Scherzer. The ball gets away from Nationals’ catcher, Matt Weiters (passed ball) and rolls to the backstop. Weiters throws to 1B in an attempt to retire Baez on the uncaught third strike but overthrows the first baseman for an error that produces an unearned run as Jason Heyward goes to 3B and Baez ends up at 2B.
However, on the follow-through of his swing, Baez’s bat touched Weiter’s face mask. According to the baseball rules, this is called follow-through contact. It is not a form of interference.
The umpires got it wrong on then, too, as they allowed Baez to advance to reach base and the Cubs received a gift run in a 9 – 8 win.
Read about the play and see the video here: https://baseballrulesacademy.com/mlb-post-season-riddled-rules-controversies/