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Why the Angels played Wednesday's game vs. the Royals under protest

Wednesday night in Kansas City, the Angels suffered a frustrating loss to the Royals in a season that has been full of frustrating losses (KC 7, LAA 5). The Royals were down two in the seventh inning, but came back to win.

The key play in Kansas City’s comeback was Matt Shoemaker‘s throwing error on Raul Mondesi Jr.’s sacrifice bunt attempt. The Royals had runners on first on second, Mondesi laid down a bunt, and Shoemaker threw it into right field. Kole Calhoun slipped while retrieving the ball and allowed both runners to score, tying the game.

Angels skipper Mike Scioscia came out of the dugout immediately to argue with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, claiming Mondesi was running inside the first base line, forcing the error. You’re not supposed to do that. An interference call would have wiped the two runs off the board. Here’s the play:

Because this is a judgment call, it was not reviewable with instant replay. Instant replay is only for black-and-white calls, like fair or foul, safe or out. Running inside the first base line is a bit more subjective.

The call on the field stood, prompting Scioscia to protest the play claiming Cuzzi “misinterpreted” the rule. Here’s some more, via Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times:

“It’s very clear,” Scioscia said. “Phil Cuzzi had Mondesi running inside the line in jeopardy the whole way, and stated that it was OK because he was stepping back towards the bag, which is wrong. You’re only OK if you start in the lane and step back in…You’re in jeopardy the whole way if you run inside, whether you get to the bag or not. So the question wasn’t if the throw impeded him, or if he impeded the throw. The question wasn’t if he was running inside. It’s, what I believe, is his misinterpretation of the rule, given the guidelines that he gave me.

“There’s no judgment involved. [Cuzzi] admitted that [Mondesi] was outside the line. …That’s the basis of the protest.”

Moura notes Cuzzi met with Scioscia in his office after the game, and the two spoke for roughly 30 minutes. Cuzzi did not speak to reporters afterwards.

It’s worth noting the interference rule refers to the first baseman’s ability to make that catch, not the fielder’s ability to make the throw. Shoemaker didn’t make a great throw, it sailed into Mondesi, and the catch was not able to be made. Mondesi actually knocked the first baseman’s glove off as he ran through the bag.

MLB.com screen grab

The Yankees filed a protest over a very similar play on Opening Day this year. Carlos Correa hit a little tapper on the infield, and Dellin Betances threw the ball over the first baseman’s head. Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued Correa was running inside the first base line and impeded the play.

MLB reviewed that play and stuck with the call on the field. History suggests the Angels will not win their protest either. There have only been two successful protests in the last 30 years and both involved the weather. It’s very rare for a protest to be successful.

If the protest is successful, the Angels and Royals will resume the game from the point of the protest.

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