Odd MLB rule played role in Giants' controversial NLDS loss

Wilmer Flores

Perhaps it was fitting how the Giants' season ended, done in by a controversial check-swing call in Game 5 of the National League Division Series after their power-packed offense went missing against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After all, the Giants benefitted from a check-swing call of their own against the Dodgers this season. On July 22 in the finale of a four-game series in LA, the Giants had the bases loaded and two out in the ninth inning, trailing the Dodgers by one. Darin Ruf appeared to offer at Kenley Jansen's 3-2 pitch, but home plate umpire Ed Hickox said no swing, sending the tying run home and bringing up LaMonte Wade Jr. who would single home two runs, and the Giants went on to win the game and the NL West by one game.

Still, it was brutal for the Giants' 107-win season to end with first base umpire Gabe Morales punching out Wilmer Flores on a check swing, setting off a Dodgers celebration on the mound at Oracle Park after a 2-1 win.

You might have been wondering if Flores and the GIants had any recourse to reverse the call. Of course, in baseball's weird in-between of embracing technology but not too much, check swing calls are not reviewable.

But it's a different odd MLB rule that led Morales to punch out Flores and signal the end of summer in the Bay Area. There is no clear definition of what actually constitutes a swing in the rulebook.


Rule 8.02c's comment is the closest we get:

"Appeals on a half swing may be made only on the call of ball and when asked to appeal, the home plate umpire must refer to a base umpire for his judgment on the half swing. Should the base umpire call the pitch a strike, the strike call shall prevail. Appeals on a half swing must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play. If the half swing occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before all infielders of the defensive team leave fair territory. "

Of course, it's odd that the rulebook would mention the phrase "half-swing" without defining it or telling umpires how to rule on it. But that's also perfectly baseball.

RELATED: NLDS loss stings, but Giants know Doval has bright future

Baseball is in a bad spot with umpires. Human error is a part of the game, sure, but the guys wearing the smocks have become part of the story far too often recently.

The Giants lost to the Dodgers because their ability to win on the margins wasn't greater than the Dodgers' talent. San Francisco's offense, outside of three hitters, never arrived in the historic series. Whenever Logan Webb wasn't on the mound, the Dodgers were the better team.

Still, it's soul-crushing for one of the two best teams in baseball to go home on a controversial check-swing call that isn't reviewable and isn't clearly defined in the rulebook.

But, for better or worse, that's baseball. This loss will live in the annals of Giants-Dodgers lore. The Wilmer Flores call will be something told to the next generation of Giants and Dodgers fans. It was, in some ways, the appropriate ending to a neck-and-neck race that lasted all season.

The Dodgers had more talent. The Giants maximized theirs better than anyone. The margins were slim. Talent nudged ahead at the end and the Giants' season ended where they won all season -- on the margin.

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast