Let us set the stage first by saying that the Chicago Cubs won 3-1 Saturday afternoon, and they have a good record against winning teams like the Texas Rangers, can in fact win close games, and Jason Hammel shouldn’t be banished to the bullpen just yet. I’ll bet that if his spot hadn’t been up in the bottom of the sixth, Hammel would have been allowed to finish out the seventh as well, but the bullpen wasn’t taxed and the Cubs held true, so we shrug. At least we got to make a number of Yu Darvish puns today, and it was very nice to see the Cubs’ bats grind against Yu to knock him out of the game early despite some nasty strikeouts from such a talented pitcher.
Alas, a lone run scored early as the Cubs found themselves in a hole due to a fluky play that you can watch here. To summarize, with Ryan Rua having advanced to second on a stolen base earlier in the inning, Hammel got Elvis Andrus to ground a sharp hit to Addison Russell, who couldn’t handle it as cleanly (but showed amazing range to get there!) before an off-balance and off-line throw to Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo came off the bag and then fired almost immediately to home plate, except the ball sailed over Miguel Montero’s head and allowed Rua to score. The ball did take a fortuitous bounce, and Montero was able to nab Andrus trying to take second on the previous overthrow. The Cubs eventually came back to win, of course, but this led to a bit of a scoring conundrum.
Based on the really BAD throw from Rizzo that sailed over Montero’s head, you would assume an error would be charged on the play. I checked the official scorer rules, which is found in MLB’s Rule 10, to get the language of how errors are interpreted in the box score. The run obviously scored regardless of whether an error was applied or not, but the one goofy quirk about errors is that it can shift a run scored from earned to unearned, assigning fault either directly or indirectly to the pitcher. We know better these days, but bear with me here.
The replay cuts out quickly but it does sound like Rua was making the turn around third base regardless of whether Andrus would reach safely or not. Based on how tough of a play Russell had to make, I’m OK with that part of the play ruled a hit. The controversy on Twitter suggested that Rizzo should have been charged with an error, per Rule 10.12a(6):
whose wild throw in attempting to prevent a runner’s advance permits that runner or any other runner to advance one or more bases beyond the base such runner would have reached had the throw not been wild;
It was certainly a wild throw, and normally the defensive team might assume that the lead runner would stay at third if the ball is kept on the infield. But with Rua running all the way, again regardless of what would result with Andrus, I believe it now falls under Rule 10.12d(2):
any fielder who makes a wild throw if in the scorer’s judgment the runner would not have been put out with ordinary effort by a good throw, unless such wild throw permits any runner to advance beyond the base he would have reached had the throw not been wild;
The argument for folks who believe Rizzo should be charged with an error is that if you assume Rua stays at third, then he was allowed to advance to home safely on a good throw. The problem lies in the fact that Rua, again, did not stay at third, and based on the timing of the play when I saw it in real time, Rua was less than 10 feet from the plate by the time the wild throw from Rizzo passed Montero’s vantage point. You may disagree with me here and I have no real way to slow down the replay because I’m technologically challenged, but you can make the argument that there can be no assumption that a good throw gets Rua. So that’s why no error was charged even with how Yakety Sax it looked, and why Jason Hammel’s ERA temporarily went up a notch. The scorer might change his scoring later on today, but based on how the rule is set up and how the play unfolded, I doubt it. Bummer for the Cubs and Jason Hammel, but shrug smiley since the Cubs won.