It's among the strangest calls made in a baseball game, and one that rarely occurs at the big-league level. But after Brewers manager Craig Counsell erred while filling out his lineup card before Monday's tilt with the Nationals, many in attendance needed a refresher course on Rule 6.03(b).
The Brewers, embarrassingly, were caught batting out of turn. The lineup Counsell turned in to the umpires and Nats manager Dusty Baker had Jonathan Lucroy batting third, followed by Ryan Braun —unusual, considering it’s typically the other way around.
So when Braun came to bat in the top of the first inning in the three-hole and singled, Baker made sure to call the Brewers out on their gaffe.
"I screwed up," Counsell told reporters. "I was going with some different lineups — with Ryan in and out of the lineup — and it was just my mistake. It was just a screw-up, completely my mistake. I gave (Brewers assistant coach) Joe (Crawford) a couple lineups, and my mistake."
After the Nats’ skipper brought it to the attention of the umpires, Lucroy was ruled out, Braun's hit was erased and the inning was over.
“I kind of started laughing," Nats centerfielder Ben Revere said. "I actually have seen that before. Kind of like T-ball, make sure you see the lineup before you go up there.”
Indeed, it was an amusing moment, though it ultimately didn't affect the game's outcome as the Nats fell 1-0.
A strong return for Papelbon: In his first appearance back from the disabled list, closer Jonathan Papelbon showed no signs of rust, pitching a perfect ninth inning that included a pair of strikeouts on just 13 pitches.
"I felt pretty strong and I felt pretty healthy," he said. "And I felt like my delivery was intact. I feel ready to go and continue the season to the last pitch of the season."
Papelbon’s return stabilizes a bullpen that had previously been in flux during his absence. With him sliding back to the closer role, it could give the Nats a chance to evaluate which parts of their relief corps needs to be upgraded before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
“Papelbon looked pretty good, Baker said. “I mean, he looked real good. He didn’t throw a bunch of pitches. He was around the strike zone. So he gets our bullpen back in sync.”
Taylor demoted: The Nats made somewhat of an eyebrow-raising move when they optioned Michael Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Papelbon to return from the DL. Sure, the 25-year-old centerfielder has just two hits in his last 24 at-bats, but he had a solid June overall, posting a slash line of .310/.355/.500 with two home runs and 6 RBI.
Baker explained after Monday's game why the team opted to go that route.
“We felt Michael needed some at-bats," the manager said. "Also, we weren’t in a position to go 12 pitchers right now because of the way our bullpen in these consecutive games the way our bullpen’s been."
Taylor's demotion creates intrigue about how long the Nats will go with a 13-man pitching staff and a four-man bench. Will it be for just a few days, or longer? And when the Nats need to call up a bat from the minor leagues, who will get the call minor: Taylor, or shortstop-turned-centerfield prospect Trea Turner?
Either way, it sounds like Baker wants to see something different from Taylor as he returns to the big club — whenever that might be.
“Yeah, it was real tough, because you don’t want to see anybody leave," Baker said. "That’s one of the toughest things...I just told him go down, no pouting, you just gotta go down there and get motivated again and determined to get your act together and come back."