The Nationals were the first team to benefit from MLB's new rule outlawing takeout slides in their Opening Day win in Atlanta, and now they have experienced the frustrating other side of the coin.
In Tuesday night's 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers, a confirmed call on a play at second base in the top of the sixth inning loomed large, as it extended the frame and allowed Miguel Cabrera to single home what ended up the game-winning run.
With two outs and Joe Ross on the mound, Tigers shortstop Andrew Romine smacked a groundball to Daniel Murphy at second base. He tossed the ball to Danny Espinosa, who threw to first with Tigers center fielder sliding about a foot over to the right of the bag in his direction.
Romine's grounder was too soft and he was too fast to give the Nats a chance at a double play, but the Nationals felt MLB's newest rule could give them the double play. The Nats challenged the call and were denied. And after the loss, they expressed their frustration with how the rule was implemented.
"They explained the rule was to us in spring training that if you couldn't touch second base or the base that you were going to, that it was an automatic double play," manager Dusty Baker said. "But then it was explained to me that the rule had changed. If he wasn't hindering the shortstop of second baseman from throwing the ball, there was no double play. We weren't aware that the rule had been changed. That's been a topic of discussion ever since it was invoked in spring training. We were told that that was the rule, and so they said he wasn't hindering the guy from throwing to first base, so therefore it wasn't a double play."
Murphy was even more specific in his take, citing the exact violations he believed Gose committed on the play.
"From my understanding, the rule is that you need to make an attempt to touch the bag, which on the replay I think it was shown that he did not. I also think that with the rule, that you need to try to maintain the bag, which I don't think he did, either... from my understanding with the rule, Anthony did not try to touch the bag and he did not hold the bag. He went past it. With the rule that Major League Baseball gave us, the commissioner's office, that would be two violations," Murphy said.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman said a double play was not likely with Romine charging in, but thought the Nats should have been awarded an overturned call due to the letter of the rule.
"If the rule reads like it did in spring training, I don’t know, I think the guy’s out," Zimmerman said.