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Joe Maddon compares slide rule to soda tax: “All rules aren’t necessarily good ones”

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Joe Maddon wanted to get ejected. At least, that’s what he told reporters following the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday, when he was tossed in the seventh inning following an overturned ruling at the plate. “That was a beautifully done major league play that gets interpreted tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago,” the Cubs’ skipper explained, later adding that he got ejected in order to defend “his boys.” “My point is, all rules created, or laws, aren’t necessarily good ones.”

Before we unpack those statements, let’s take a look at how the controversial play unfolded. In the seventh inning of NLCS Game 1, with one out and runners on first and second, Justin Turner lined a base hit into left field. Charlie Culberson raced home from second base and was nailed at the plate by a strong throw from Kyle Schwarber.

Upon review, however, things got a little messy. Cubs’ backstop Willson Contreras set up to receive the throw in front of the plate, where his left leg and foot blocked Culberson’s path to the plate in clear violation of the existing home plate collision rule. Per Rule 7.13, not only is the catcher required to leave a clear path to the plate, but he must have possession of the ball before moving to block the plate — unless, and only unless he is making a legitimate attempt to field the throw. Contreras, on the other hand, already had his leg and foot in Culberson’s path before receiving the ball from Schwarber and had not turned to receive the ball before blocking Culberson’s way.

As expected, the Dodgers challenged the initial ruling and successfully overturned it in their favor, tacking on an extra insurance run to their three-run lead. Equally predictable was Joe Maddon’s response. He argued with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale, then turned on crew chief Mike Winters before getting ejected from the game.

It’s easy to understand Maddon’s frustration. The play didn’t result in a violent collision, nor did Contreras appear to be committing violations with any kind of hidden malice toward Culberson. By the spirit, rather than the letter of the law, Contreras did nothing wrong. Still, tweaking the terms and conditions of a potentially dangerous play is, well, dangerous — no matter how beautifully a play is made or how innocently a catcher’s leg is thrown across a runner’s path to the plate. If Contreras is the collateral damage here, if it means that sometime in the near and inevitable future, a season-ending or career-ending collision will be avoided because of the same flawed rule, then maybe that’s not the worst thing.

Maddon should be available to manage Game 2 on Sunday.

José Ramirez’s 17-pitch at-bat kickstarts Indians’ five-run comeback in ninth inning

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With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.

Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.

After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.