Down by three runs in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Phillies loaded the bases Saturday on three consecutive singles to open the ninth inning. It was by far their most productive rally of the evening. And it ended just as abruptly as it had begun.
Charging toward second base when Pedro Feliz hit a routine double-play ball toward third, Shane Victorino never slid. Instead, he ducked his head and rammed directly into Brewers second baseman Craig Counsell, knocking him backward as he received Bill Hall's throw -- but not disrupting Counsell's relay to first.
Hovering over the second-base bag, umpire Jim Joyce immediately called out Victorino for interference to complete the first half of the double play, and Counsell's relay easily beat Feliz to the first-base bag to complete the trick.
Ryan Howard scored on the play and Greg Dobbs moved to third, before all six Division Series umpires gathered to discuss everything that had just transpired. After a brief conversation, the crew sent Howard back to third base and Dobbs to second, clearing a run off the board. Both outs stood.
"I think it's an easy call for the umpire, and he made it right away," Counsell said. "He's trying to break up the double play, but you have to slide. Those are the rules."
But was it a dirty play?
"That's why he was out," Counsell shrugged.
Victorino saw things a bit differently.
"It wasn't dirty," he said, initially unwilling to discuss the play. "If that was the case, I would've just bowled him over. That wasn't my intention. I was trying to get him to throw the ball off my chest, or my helmet, something. When the ball was hit, I said to myself, 'That's almost an automatic double play.' He hit the ball so well and [Hall] made a good play. I was just trying to get something to happen. I was trying to stay out of a double play."
Major League Baseball defines interference in Official Rules: 2.00 Definition of Terms (a): "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules.
"In the event the batter-runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch."
Brewers first-base coach Eddie Sedar prompted the ruling, alerting manager Dale Sveum that Joyce had called interference on the field -- and that because of it, Howard's run should not have counted. And so Sveum ran out and urged the umpiring crew to discuss the matter as a group.
|The Phillies appeared to have scored on a bases-loaded double play in the ninth inning, but Shane Victorino was called for interference after running into second baseman Craig Counsell.|
|Rule 2.00 (a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. In the event the batter-runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch.|
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel then briefly considered arguing the call but, unsure of the official rule after consulting his coaches, opted to remain close to the dugout.
Saturday's game was not the first time the Phillies have been victims of an interference call. Last Aug. 24 against the Padres, umpires called out Carlos Ruiz for interfering with second baseman Marcus Giles, in a controversial play that ultimately injured Giles and sent him to the 15-day disabled list.
This play was not quite as damaging -- Counsell was unharmed -- nor as significant as it initially seemed. Unable to muster much offense off Brewers pitching all afternoon, the Phillies finally put the tying run on base when Victorino singled with no outs in the ninth.
Because Counsell made an effective relay throw to first base, the Brewers were going to record two outs -- regardless of the ruling. Ruiz, who grounded out to end the game, was going to step to the plate as the potential tying run -- regardless of the ruling. And so the only difference came in the fact that Howard's run did not count, and that the Phillies lost by three runs rather than two.
"I was trying to score and I didn't see what happened," Howard said. "I figured they would have turned the double play either way and they got both outs, so I guess it worked out in their favor."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.