Yankees manager Joe Girardi had his team play Tuesday’s season opener under protest after home plate umpire Dana DeMuth refused to call out Carlos Correa for interference during the eighth inning. Correa had hit a weak tapper up the first base line and reached safely when pitcher Dellin Betances made an inaccurate throw that sailed past first baseman Mark Teixeira. Correa was running to the left of the baseline on the grass, and Betances likely threw high because he couldn’t get the ball to Teixeira otherwise.
The play was not reviewable and DeMuth wouldn’t reverse his decision despite Girardi’s very animated plea. The non-call ended up hurting the Yankees as Jose Altuve scored on the play, and the Astros would go onto score two more runs in the inning. They ended up winning 5-3.
After the game, DeMuth was asked about the call, and he steadfastly refused to admit that Correa committed any kind of an infraction. Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus posted a picture of the postgame quotes sheet:
Notably, when said that if Correa wasn’t guilty of interference, Betances’ only other option — aside from making a high throw — was to throw it directly into Correa’s back. DeMuth responded, “Do it. Throw it into the runner’s back. Because then what’s happening? He is impeding.”
Rule 5.09(a)(11) states that a runner is out when:
In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of ) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of ) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;
The key phrase is “the fielder taking the throw at first base”. Betances made such a poor throw that it was uncatchable; Teixeira never had a chance to take the throw. According to the language of this rule, Correa didn’t interfere with anything, even though he very clearly ran inside the base line in the final 45 feet. Betances’ throw was certainly impacted by Correa’s path, but that isn’t covered.
Ultimately, DeMuth made the right call. It’s a shame the play wasn’t reviewable, and interference shouldn’t be dependent on the ability for the fielder to take a throw, but those are separate issues that could be covered after the season.