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Bring Out Your MLB Rule Books

The first two games of the Dodgers-Giants series this week has been a test of knowledge of obscure baseball rules.

Monday night’s game featured a fly ball to the outfield by the Giants with the bases loaded and one out, but the runner from first base was then doubled off first base to end the inning, nullifying in the minds of many the Giants run that had scored from third base on the play. However, the run counted, thanks to Rule 2.00:

A FORCE PLAY is a play in which a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner.

Example: Not a force out. One out. Runner on first and third. Batter flies out. Two out. Runner on third tags up and scores. Runner on first tries to retouch before throw from fielder reaches first baseman, but does not get back in time and is out. Three outs. If, in umpire’s judgment, the runner from third touched home before the ball was held at first base, the run counts.

That brings us to last night’s game, which was simply bizarre. The Giants had another bases loaded, one out situation, this time in the ninth inning against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. Acting manager Don Mattingly (Joe Torre was ejected earlier in the contest) made a mound visit, but as he was leaving turned around to answer a question from first baseman James Loney. The problem was that Mattingly had technically stepped off the mound, then back on, which constituted a second mound visit, per Rule 8.06:

VISITS TO THE MOUND BY A Manager or coach are covered under rule 8.06 in the Official Baseball Rules and section 7.12 in the Major League Baseball Umpire Manual. A trip to the mound begins when a manager or coach crosses the foul line. It ends when the manager or coach leaves the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber.

Broxton was removed from the game immediately, and embattled and increasingly ineffective reliever George Sherrill came in and blew the lead after throwing only eight warmup pitches. Again, we turn to Rule 8.06:

The substitute pitcher will be allowed eight preparatory pitches or more if in the umpire’s judgment circumstances justify

On the Dodgers postgame show on KABC radio, it was reported that crew chief Tim McLelland told Mattingly Sherrill would be allowed as many pitches as he needed to warm up, only he forgot to tell home plate umpire Adrian Johnson, who stopped Sherrill after eight pitches. Given how Sherrill has pitched this season, I don’t think it matters how many warm-up pitches he is allowed, so that’s not a huge concern. However, Sherrill shouldn’t have even come into the game at that point. Again, per Rule 8.06:

In a case where a manager has made his first trip to the mound and then returns the second time to the mound in the same inning with the same pitcher in the game and the same batter at bat, after being warned by the umpire that he cannot return to the mound, the manager shall be removed from the game and the pitcher required to pitch to the batter until he is retired or gets on base. After the batter is retired, or becomes a base runner, then this pitcher must be removed from the game. The manager should be notified that his pitcher will be removed from the game after he pitches to one hitter, so he can have a substitute pitcher warmed up.

This is a little vague, but it sounds like Broxton should have been allowed to pitch to one more batter, Andres Torres. The Dodgers still may have lost last night’s game anyway, but it was an interesting exercise in the MLB rule book.