Astros’ rally ends on ‘Utley rule’ call, Brewers win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Houston Astros huddled around video monitors in the clubhouse for extra views. Manager A.J Hinch fumed in his office. Ace Dallas Keuchel made his frustration known on Twitter.

The Astros became the latest team in the majors to get a firsthand look at the “Chase Utley rule.”

Colby Rasmus was called for interference because of the new rule, resulting in a game-ending double play and blunting Houston’s ninth-inning rally in a 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

“My interpretation is that it’s a shame. The game ends on a play that the rule isn’t intended to protect,” said Hinch after the game, his voice cracking.

Down 6-0, the Astros scored four times in the ninth and put runners on first and second with one out.

Jose Altuve hit a bouncer to second baseman Scooter Gennett, who threw to shortstop Jonathan Villar for the forceout. Rasmus slid past the base, and Villar didn’t make a relay to first.

Second base umpire Dan Bellino called Rasmus for not trying to stay on the bag, part of the requirement under baseball’s new rule governing slides on potential double plays. The call was upheld after the Astros challenged the play.

“My second base umpire determined that it was not a bona fide slide because Rasmus did not attempt to stay on the base. He could not stay on the base,” crew chief Tom Hallion said. “With that, that is the rule of interference.”

Keuchel had a different opinion.

“Are we even playing baseball anymore??? Unbelievable,” the opinionated Cy Young Award winner said on Twitter.

It was the second time this week that “Utley rule” call ended a game. Toronto lost two runs and a potential win when Jose Bautista was called for interference at Tampa Bay.

Jeremy Jeffress was credited with his second save after getting the double play, in spite of allowing a hit and walk in the ninth.

“It’s a different way to end a game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “but we’ll take it.”

Counsell said the “Utley rule” was talked about at length during spring training, but players are still learning to adjust. Managers are still learning how to interpret it.

“The rule is the rule and we’re going to have to learn how to play with it,” Counsell said.

Hinch said there needed to be more clarification.

“He slid through the base and didn’t hang onto the base. When a play happens late, you’re asking major league athletes to essentially shut it down and slide at a pace that isn’t competitive,” Hinch said.

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Rangers, Padres, White Sox to continue paying minor leaguers

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In March, Major League Baseball agreed to pay minor league players $400 per week while the sport is shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. That provision is set to expire at the end of May. As Craig noted earlier, the Athletics will not be paying their minor leaguers starting on June 1.

Several teams are doing the right thing, continuing to pay their minor leaguers $400 per week through at least the end of June. Per The Athletic’s Levi Weaver and James Fegan, the Rangers and White Sox will each tack on another month of pay. The Athletic’s Dennis Lin reported earlier that the Padres will pay their players through the end of August. Craig also cited a Baseball America report from this morning, which mentioned that the Marlins will also pay their players through the end of August.

Frankly, if the Marlins can find a way to continue paying their minor league players, then every team should be able to do the same. The Marlins are widely believed to be the least profitable among the 30 major league clubs. Here’s hoping the rest of the league follows the Rangers’, White Sox’s, Padres’, and Marlins’ lead as opposed to the Athletics’.