Jun 2, 2014, 8:02 AM EDT
In the Nationals’ 2-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday, Major League Baseball’s new system of managers challenges showed us something we had previously yet to see: a double challenge.
Both managers – Matt Williams of the Nats and Ron Washington of the Rangers – challenged the same play, thus creating two separate rulings on the same sequence.
The play occurred in the top of the first inning, with Nationals’ starter Tanner Roark pitching with two outs and runners on the corners. Elvis Andrus was standing on third and Alex Rios was on first.
With Donnie Murphy at the plate, Roark threw an 85 mile per hour slider for a ball. While the pitch was in the air, Rios took off from first to try and steal second.
Given it was an off-speed pitch, Rios had a good opportunity to make the play and beat Wilson Ramos’ throw to the bag. And as he was running into second, Andrus started running and reached home before any throw attempt was possible.
Rios, however, couldn’t stop his momentum in time to stay on second base and overshot his slide. He was then tagged by Danny Espinosa for the third out of the inning. Meanwhile, Andrus scored and gave the Rangers what appeared to be a 1-0 early lead.
The sequence was bizarre on its own, but then things got interesting. Immediately both managers ran out to get an explanation from the umpires of what had happened. Both skippers then decided to use their allotted challenge upon hearing from their dugouts they had a case.
Williams challenged the fact Andrus had scored before the tag on Rios was made, and Washington said Rios should have been safe. The umpires converged behind home plate and got on the headset with officials in New York.
Two minutes and 45 seconds later, and we had a verdict: both calls were given to the Nationals. Not only was Rios out, but Andrus did not reach home in time to earn the score. The Rangers lost their run and the game remained tied at 0-0.
Williams has now challenged 11 plays through 55 games this season. Six of those he has come out on top, and that’s not including plays challenged by the opposing manager.
Willams says he’s starting to get the hang of it and, in general, favors the new system.
“It helps with us getting everything right on the field,” he said. “I think it’s important for your team to be able to have that available to them. Today was an example. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s conclusive and sometimes it isn’t. But to have it available gives you an option. In that respect, I think it’s a good thing.”
Williams believes everyone around baseball is used to the new rules and it is now just part of the game.
“I think everybody’s got their feet wet, too. I think everybody’s gotten used to it from a team standpoint, from a player standpoint. Players are starting to realize they can signal to the bench if we don’t see something from the bench necessarily. I think it’s a good thing.
“Ultimately we just want to get it correct. I think everybody’s in that same boat. If it takes an extra look then everybody’s okay with that, we’re willing to do that.”
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