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There was an unusual play in tonight's NLDS game between San Francisco and Washington. With runners at second and third, and one out, the Nationals pitcher P threw a wild pitch (on an intentional ball, no less). The catcher C went to pick up the ball, P came in to cover the plate, and the runner R3 from third tried to score. C collected the ball and threw to P who tagged R3, and R3 was ruled out. The radio announcers seemed to think that P had blocked the plate before having the ball, in violation of the newly instituted Rule 7.13(2), but the play was reviewed and upheld.

Rule 7.13 reads as follows:

(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

Since P is not a catcher, does Rule 7.13(2) even apply?

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that P did block the pathway of the runner before he was in possession of the ball, and that it was not necessary for him to do so in order to field the throw.

It is interesting that 7.13(1) is careful to clarify this point with the phrase "catcher (or other player covering home plate)" in every instance, and 7.13(2) doesn't include that phrase.

One of the announcers (I think it was Jon Miller) suggested that it was plausible the rule intended the catcher to be treated differently, since he normally wears extra protective gear which other players do not have (and so might be more inclined to try to block the plate in general).

(In the game in question, it sounds as though P may have needed to block the plate in order to field the throw, and so was not in violation of 7.13(2). But I'm asking whether the rule even applied to him in the first place.)

  • In the broadcast they did come back after the inning and say that they were told by a rules official that it applies to any player covering home. I don't see anything in there however to support that. In the game it appeared as though the pitcher was in possession of the ball before he blocked the plate, making it legal whether or not he is the catcher. – diggers3 Oct 8 '14 at 15:49
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Both of the links that I have found that talk about the call believe the rule is applied to position players too. Part 2 does not state anything about players besides catchers, so I wouldn't necessarily come to this conclusion. During the broadcast on Fox Sports 1, a rules official did clarify that if the pitcher was blocking the plate, part 2 of Rule 7.13 would apply.

It will be interesting to see where this rule goes, there has already been a lot of grey area exposed, and some of it has been clarified.

Here are the links I could find that explicitly talk about Rule 7.13:

MLB.com

SB Nation

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