Opponents of baseball’s new plate-blocking rule, meant to protect catchers, got another round of ammo to add to their arsenal with what went on in Philadelphia this afternoon.
The Phillies and Diamondbacks were tied 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Howard had drawn a two-out walk to bring up Marlon Byrd. Byrd worked the count 3-2 before skying a fly ball into shallow right-center. Second baseman Didi Gregorius ranged out for it and appeared to have it, but the ball deflected off of his glove towards shallow center. Center fielder Ender Inciarte alertly picked up the ball and fired a seed to catcher Miguel Montero, who applied an easy tag to Ryan Howard for the third out.
Only one problem: Montero didn’t give Howard a lane to the plate. The umpires reviewed the play for more than three minutes, but ultimately reversed the out call, giving the Phillies the run although Howard never ended up touching the plate.
Let the debate begin anew.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.