Explaining the Nationals’ ninth-inning challenge

Matt Williams.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Matt Williams. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

During the flurry of hits and runs in a ninth-inning comeback Wednesday, the Nationals won a replay challenge by arguing that the Diamondbacks did indeed make a catch. Huh? Yes, it was confusing.

Here’s what happened: the Nationals had already taken a 5-1 lead on the Diamondbacks in the top of the ninth. Tyler Moore stood at first with one out after his two-run single. Left-handed reliever Oliver Perez was pitching to switch-hitter Jose Lobaton.

Lobaton hit a hard line drive to center field. Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock raced to it, dove head-first and appeared to catch the ball. Umpires, however, ruled that the ball was trapped.

Pollock threw the ball into the infield, the Diamondbacks touched second and then first. They thought that they had turned a double play. Moore tagged up and then went back to first after seeing a catch. Lobaton never touched first base and ran into the dugout.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams emerged from the dugout and challenged the trap call. Why? If he won and Pollack did make a catch, Moore wouldn’t be out at second base. Instead of an inning-ending double play, the Nationals would have only two outs.

As the replay was shown on the scoreboard, fans cheered Pollock’s catch. But they also seemed confused by Williams’s challenge. The review didn’t last long.

Williams won the challenge, the play was overturned and Moore stayed at first base. Nate McLouth singled in his next at-bat and then Scott Hairston popped out, so nothing came of the rest of the inning but it was an astute and unusual challenge by Williams.

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