On Sunday, the Nationals and Orioles played into the top of the sixth inning before a rain delay forced both teams off the field. Washington’s grounds crew sprang into action but struggled for more than 15 minutes to get the tarp across the infield, causing the dirt to flood. But despite the crew’s best efforts to drain the field, umpires deemed it unplayable and suspended the rest of the game.
Under normal circumstances, the game would’ve been declared finished. Any contest that is called after 15 outs have been made when the visiting team took the lead in the previous inning or earlier is deemed an “official game” by the MLB hand book. If the rain delay comes before 15 outs are made, when the game is tied or in the same inning that the visiting team took the lead, it is suspended until a later date.
However, this game didn’t qualify to be suspended under those rules. The Orioles took the lead in the fifth and the Nationals, as the home team, had a chance to tie or take the lead but fell short. That the game went into the sixth before the rain began should’ve required the umpires to call it off, if not for one technicality: faulty equipment.
The tarp that the Nationals’ grounds crew attempted to use was tangled up in its roller, making it difficult for them to roll it out. Under rule 7.02 of the MLB hand book, any game that is called as a result of “light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home Club” must be picked up at a later date.
This is a rule that has stood for years but is seldom used given how infrequent mechanical failures such as this one occur. MLB did introduce a 2020-only change to rain delay rules but it didn’t come into play Sunday. (Games called off before 15 outs are reached will be picked up right where they left off; in normal seasons, those games are wiped and restarted from the beginning.)
As a result, the Orioles and Nationals will finish out the game Aug. 14 at Camden Yards. Washington will still serve as the “home team” and play will resume with Baltimore leading 5-2 in the top of the sixth.
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