Phillies Notebook: As a rule, this one is lousy

Posted: July 29, 2014

WITH ANY LUCK, it will go down in history as the play that broke Rule 7.13 forever: Ryan Howard, out by 5 feet, with no shot at scoring, being awarded the go-ahead run. That's what happened in the bottom of the sixth at a Citizens Bank Park yesterday, thanks to Major League Baseball's interpretation and enforcement of the rule it instituted in the offseason in an attempt to prevent collisions at home plate.

While the play is unlikely to have any big-picture ramifications for either of the teams involved - both the Diamondbacks and Phillies entered the day with the two worst run differentials in the National League - you can bet that there will be some serious conversations in the commissioner's office as Bud Selig and his fellow executives consider the possibility of a similar situation occurring in October.

"They make things so difficult with that new rule," Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero said. "The game's been 100 years with that old rule, catchers have been getting run over for years. Now is the point where we needed a change? What for? I guess that's what catching is made up for. I'd much rather get killed. Seriously, I'd much rather be run over. Come get me."

Howard was in the center of the action all day, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning and making a tremendous diving play in the field. But all of that was overshadowed by what occurred in the sixth after Marlon Byrd hit was appeared to be a routine inning ending popup. As the ball soared toward the sky, Byrd flung his bat in frustration and Howard began dutifully jogging the bases from first, where he had drawn a two-out walk. Mayhem ensued. First, second baseman Didi Gregorius dropped the ball in centerfield. Then, Ender Inciarte picked up the loose ball and made a perfect throw home, where Montero caught it and waited for Howard to run into his tag. But the Phillies immediately protested, correctly pointing out that Montero was camped out in front of the plate while waiting for the throw. Rule 7.13 requires the catcher to provide the runner with a lane to slide across the plate. But Howard might not have even been close enough to the plate to attempt a slide.

After a lengthy replay review, the umpires ruled Howard safe.

"This year, that's a run," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Last 100 years, it's not a run."

It was a remarkable series of events, one that came a half inning after the Diamondbacks tied the game at 2-2 on a Paul Goldschmidt sacrifice fly that followed a leadoff double by Inciarte.

"I understand why they put it in play," Howard said. "I think it's definitely going to take a while for guys to kind of get used to. I think Montero, he's just used to being in that position. Some guys are going to have to learn to make that adjustment. It's tough for all of us right now."

"The throw took me there. I went and got the ball," an exasperated Montero said. "They called I was blocking the plate. So I asked him what I should do in the future, because I don't want this to happen again. What should I do? They honestly didn't have an answer. They didn't know what to say. I would say the major leagues need to clean that up and figure out that rule and what it's going to be about."

Coming up

The Phillies are 13 games under .500. and have been outscored by 59 runs, second-most in the National League, behind only Arizona. They will spend the next 3 days in New York for a series against the Mets, followed by a four-game series in Washington, where they will be for the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. The Mets lead the last-place Phillies by four games in the NL East standings. The Nationals hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves. The Phillies have lost six of nine games against the Mets and six of nine against the Nationals. They are 18-26 against the division.

Probables vs. Mets - Tonight: righthander A.J. Burnett vs. righthander Bartolo Colon; tomorrow: Lefty Cole Hamels vs. righty Dillon Gee; Wednesday: righthander Kyle Kendrick vs. righthander Zack Wheeler. Probables vs. Nationals - Thursday: lefthander Cliff Lee vs. lefty Gio Gonzalez; Friday: righthander Roberto Hernandez vs. righthander Doug Fister; Saturday: righthander A.J. Burnett vs. righty Jordan Zimmermann; Sunday: Hamels vs. righthander Stephen Strasburg.

Phillers

Prospect Jesse Biddle returned to the mound on Saturday after a monthlong absence, facing eight batters in a Gulf Coast League game in Tampa, Fla. It was his first appearance since June 23, when he allowed 10 runs in three innings, prompting the organization to prescribe a mental vacation . . . Darin Ruf started in leftfield yesterday in place of Domonic Brown with lefty Vidal Nuno on the mound.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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