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SAN FRANCISCO – Jake Peavy scowled and punched air and vented on the mound. He was Michael Douglas in “Falling Down,” with ballcap instead of crew cut. He was six innings deep, trailing 1-0 and pitching in his 19th consecutive start looking for a victory.
Anything would set him off. An infield single was enough. And it was fair to surmise: the sellout crowd at AT&T Park wouldn’t see anyone madder Wednesday afternoon.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants use seven-run seventh to snap skid]
Until the seventh inning, and …
“Ronnie (Wotus) checked with Shawon (Dunston) and wanted to see if he was blocking the plate,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “The replay was that he was. And it’s a rule.”
And White Sox manager Robin Ventura rampaged.
Gregor Blanco was so very, very, very out at the plate. But experimental rule 7.13 provides a lasso-sized legal loophole, and the Giants used it to score the tying run in what became a 7-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Bochy ambled out to request a replay review, the field umpires complied, the crew in New York correctly enforced the rule as written – namely, that White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers was blocking the plate before he had possession of the ball – and the Giants were awarded the tying run.
It was a legal technicality. The Giants didn’t care. You don’t give much thought to the spirit of the game when the alternative is another spirit-crushing loss.
Ventura sprinted onto the field in such a dust-kicking rage, you’d think it was Nolan Ryan calling balls and strikes. He was ejected, yet somehow still found a way to request a review to the initial review that resulted in Adam Duvall being sent from third base back to second.
No, it was not baseball’s finest moment. Neither was the walk that followed to Joaquin Arias (who was hitting .197). It took that, plus Angel Pagan’s clutch two-out, tiebreaking single to put Peavy in line for his first victory since April 25.
“I’m just happy this team … we needed a win today,” said Peavy, who had been 0-12 over his previous 18 starts for the Red Sox and Giants. “Catching that break, there hasn’t been one, it feels like, for any team I’ve pitched for.”
Yes, but on a personal level, will Peavy sleep better knowing he didn’t get beaten by that Adam Dunn water shot, which was all he allowed in seven innings?
“I have nothing to prove in this game anymore,” he said. “It’s nice to get the monkey off my back, so to speak. But for me, it really wasn’t on my back. It was more a conversation piece.
“Everything has an expiration date. It was bound to end sometime. The home run didn’t cost me the game. I’ll sleep better because of that.”
Ventura can stay up all night penning angry letters to the commissioner, whoever that turns out to be by week’s end. But he has no cause for complaint. A day earlier, it was Ventura who came out to cajole umpires into instituting a review on a rather obvious out call at the plate. Ventura wanted replay officials to review whether Buster Posey was blocking the lane before receiving the ball. He was not.
If you try to play the loophole, there’s no sense crying when it gets played against you.
Now, in the best interests of baseball, does experimental Rule 7.13 need to be changed? Of course it does. This was the ninth time this season that an out call became a run at the plate because of the catcher collision rule. In most of those situations, the runner was out by a good margin. Can you imagine this happening in a World Series game, with an outcome hinging on a technicality? It would be an embarrassment for the sport.
Even Bochy, who spearheaded the movement to pass a rule that would protect catchers from being used as crash-test dummies at the plate, acknowledged the rule needs to be changed.
“Is it perfect? No. Does it need to be tweaked? Yeah, I think it does,” Bochy said. “But we’ve had some tough calls too, trust me. The rule is you can’t block home plate without the ball. It’s right there. How they tweak it, I don’t know. But what I do like is you’re not seeing … those violent collisions. I think it has served some purpose.”
There is a reason the rule is written as it was, with catchers unable to block the plate unless they are in possession of the ball or positioning themselves to receive a throw that takes them into the pathway. It’s because position players voiced concerns to the union that they would be left with no place to slide. A rule written to protect catchers would leave baserunners prone to injuries by sliding into shin guards.
It’s not like Flowers was creating a wall. Blanco was asked if he had to change the way he slid, or alter his path to the plate, because Flowers wasn’t completely in fair territory. He said no to both. He didn’t even realize the collision rule might come into play until he heard the chatter in the dugout, then went down the tunnel to cue up his own video review.
“I was saying to everybody, `Whatever it takes, whatever it takes to win the ballgame,’” Blanco said. “I’ve been playing this same game for so long. It’s kind of tough sometimes a rule like that can change the game. At the same time, whatever it takes to win the game is good for us.”
Said Bochy: “It is what it is and we’ll take it. It’s part of the game now. It’s good to get a win. You take it any way you can.”
Peavy will cosign to that. He revealed that the players held a meeting prior to Tuesday’s game, with the theme being, “Get into the playoffs any way you can, and then anything is possible.” In other words, quit watching the Dodgers. If they crater, that’s great. But there are two wild card spots and almost nothing separating the Giants from the Pirates and Cardinals. The Giants get 20 games against the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks (without Gerardo Parra, Paul Goldschmidt and Martin Prado, too).
As Ryan Vogelsong said a night earlier, when the Giants had a potential walk-off rally snuffed out by the best double play they’ve seen all season, they just needed one break to go their way. They got it, thanks to Rule 7.13 and Ventura’s cloud of dust.
But they needed a clutch hit, too. Pagan provided it. The team is 1-5 since he came back.
“I guess the work I put in in Arizona was worth it,” Pagan said. “I feel good about myself.”
It beats being angry all the time.