Brad Peacock

Spotlight back on umpiring in World Series Game 6 as Sam Holbrook makes poor ruling

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You may recall that umpire Lance Barksdale took some heat after blaming Nationals catcher Yan Gomes for a missed strike call in the sixth inning. Barksdale felt that Gomes disrespected him by getting out of his crouch early, assuming the strike call. Barksdale also rung up Victor Robles in the seventh inning on a Gerrit Cole pitch that was never in the strike zone.

Sam Holbrook, working behind the plate for Game 6, was in the spotlight on Tuesday night. Gomes led off with a single against Brad Peacock in the top of the seventh inning. Trea Turner followed up with a weak tapper that caused Peacock to charge off the mound to the third base side. Peacock’s throw was off the mark and unable to be corralled by Yuli Gurriel at first base, so Gomes advanced all the way to third base and Turner to second.

Holbrook, however, ruled that Turner interfered with Gurriel. Turner was called out and Gomes had to stay at first base. Understandably, Nationals manager Dave Martinez was livid. There was then about a five-minute delay as the umpires determined whether or not the play was reviewable. It was not, because of course.

Turner ran to the inside of the first base line. Peacock’s throw was poor, which was the real issue. Gurriel had to reach into the baseline to attempt to retrieve it. Turner did the only thing he could do as a base runner, given that the base is placed entirely in fair territory. Turner was punished because Peacock made a bad throw. He could have run the same exact way but would not have been called for interference if Peacock had made an on-target throw.

José Altuve, by the way, was not called for interference despite a similar — arguably more egregious — infraction, as FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik points out.

Anthony Rendon decided to put a bow on the umpiring discussion, though, by swatting a two-run homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field. Commissioner Rob Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre likely breathed a huge sigh of relief upon seeing that, knowing an umpire’s poor judgment wouldn’t egregiously impact the outcome of a World Series Game 6.

When the inning ended, Martinez got into a shouting match with third base umpire Gary Cederstrom and Holbrook. He was so upset he had to be held back by Chip Hale and Tim Bogar as he was ejected from the game. Hale took over as the acting manager. The Nationals tried to play the remainder of the game under protest but aren’t allowed to by rule.

Update: Speaking to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal after the game, Torre said the ruling had nothing to do with Turner’s route; it had to do with Turner interfering with Gurriel’s glove. A lot of rules wonks were parsing minutiae in the rulebook before Torre’s clarification and that was made moot. Torre’s explanation here makes even less sense. Turner indeed was punished simply because Peacock made a poor throw that forced Gurriel to reach into the base line.