In the fifth inning of Friday’s Nationals-Braves games, everyone witnessed a strange scene. Facing right-handed starter David Hale, Ian Desmond drilled a ball down the left field line. As Desmond faced around the bases, the ball rolled into the left field corner and under the padding. Left fielder Justin Upton raced toward the ball in the corner but stopped and put up his hands to signal a ground rule double. He made no attempt to pull the ball out.
Desmond didn’t stop running and raced around the bases and scored. The umpires signaled an inside-the-park home run and the crowd erupted. But instantly, Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez emerged from the dugout to contest the call and Upton jogged in from left field to do so.
The umpires convened and then went to the replay headset to talk with the replay umpire in the league office in New York. After five minutes of discussion and review, the umpires overturned the call on the field. Based on the Rule 7.05(f), they awarded Desmond a ground rule double, ruling that the ball was lodged in the padding. The rule states that two bases are awarded when a ball goes “under a field fence.”
After Upton raised his arm and didn’t get the call, he easily picked up the ball and fired it into the infield.
Nationals Manager Matt Williams came out to discuss the call with umpires. Desmond came out of the dugout and took second base, and was then promptly thrown out stealing third. Gonzalez challenged the play, as home runs and stadium boundary calls can be reviewed. There are no ground rules at Nationals Park governing balls under the outfield padding.
But the obvious follow-up questions are: Was the ball stuck? How did the replay umpire in New York rule that the ball was lodged based on the video? Why is there space enough under the padding to hide the ball?
Video of the play is below. More on this later.