Upon further review, the men in blue blew it.
On Thursday, MLB's chief baseball officer Joe Torre confirmed that the umpiring crew made the wrong call on a crucial passed ball in Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.
The critical play occurred in the top of the fifth inning, when Chicago's Javier Baez swung at strike three from Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who had come on in relief to start the frame. The swing would've resulted in the third out, but the pitch got by Washington catcher Matt Wieters, allowing Baez to reach first and extend the inning.
Wieters argued that because he was struck by Baez's backswing, the play should have resulted in an out, ending a Chicago rally that had already produced two runs off of Scherzer. Had the umpires agreed with Wieters, the inning would have ended with the Cubs holding a 5-4 edge.
Instead, Baez reached, and Chicago scored twice more to take a 7-4 lead before winning by a final score of 9-8 to eliminate Washington and advance to the National League Championship Series.
Exactly two weeks after the fateful play, Torre admitted that crew chief Jerry Layne and his fellow umps got it wrong.
"You know, the whole rule interpretation -- there's rules, and then there's instructions to the umpires," Torre said, appearing Thursday on SiriusXM radio with host Chris Russo. "There's separate books. And what Jerry's feeling was, that the interference didn't take precedent over the fact that the ball was already past [Wieters] when the contact took place.
"However, the rule states that when contact is made -- in other words, when the bat came around and hit the catcher's mask -- it's a dead ball. It's a dead ball. And that's the one thing that should have taken precedence."
MLB rule 6.03 states the following: "If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire's judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."
According to Torre, Washington manager Dusty Baker had the power to have the play overturned in the moment.
"If you've got a question, a rule question -- not a judgment question but a rule question -- if you don't like what the umpire's telling you, ask him for a rules check. And they can do that. They can go to the replay center on the headset and check a rule."
Last Friday, eight days after Washington's second consecutive NLDS Game 5 loss under Baker, the Nationals announced they were parting ways with the 68-year old skipper, whose contract had expired. In two seasons in D.C., Baker guided the Nats to 192 wins and a pair of division titles.
The Nationals are currently interviewing candidates to replace Baker, including Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez and Mets hitting coach Kevin Long. Pitching coach Mike Maddux, who served in Washington under Baker, was thought to be a potential candidate, but on Thursday the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they've hired Maddux as their new pitching coach.