Yasmani Grandal was in the middle of one of the key plays in the White Sox’s ALDS Game 3 victory over the Astros on Sunday night — as in, right between Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel and catcher Martin Maldonado.
Grandal was in Gurriel’s throwing lane after Gurriel fielded a Grandal chopper and threw home trying to retire Luis Robert. The ball clipped Grandal’s left arm and eluded Maldonado. Robert scored on the fielder’s choice, giving Chicago a two-run lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Chicago scored once more in the inning and went on to win 12-6. The victory kept the Sox alive in the best-of-five series.
The Astros argued that Grandal intentionally ran out of the baseline to interfere with the throw. Umpires ruled he didn’t.
“We decided that there was no interference because on that play the ball was hit to the infield, and then coming back to the plate,” crew chief Tom Hallion said, per MLB.com. “That 45-foot lane (to first base) does not even come into play. It’s the batter establishing his basepath. When he came out of the box and started running he didn’t veer off, he didn’t throw up his shoulder. He did nothing intentional to get hit with that ball.”
FS1 analysts A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Wainwright thought at the time that Grandal did stick his arm out. Grandal pleaded innocent after the game.
“I mean, I wish I could tell you it was a heads-up play,” he said. “I just saw the replay. I didn’t even know I was running that far inside the line. I was actually just trying to get to first. It takes me a long time to get there, so as I hit the ball, I’m looking down. As I look up, I see the ball kind of coming straight at me. I try to get out of the way, and it hit me.
“So, yeah, I know what the rule is, but, like I said, I wish — I wish it would have been a heads-up play by my part. It just so happened to hit me.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker was still unconvinced a couple of hours after the fact.
“I was arguing the fact that especially him being a catcher, you know, he knows what he was doing. I mean, that was a smart play on his part, and that was the explanation that they gave me that they didn’t see anything wrong with the play,” Baker said.
Baker said he also argued the play was similar to Javier Baez disrupting Matt Wieters in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals. Baker was managing the Nats at the time. Baez’s bat struck Wieters’ mask on a swinging strikeout, which MLB later acknowledged should have resulted in a dead ball. Umpires didn’t make the call in real time, Wieters committed a passed ball on the pitch and then made a throwing error trying to retire Baez. The Cubs scored a run on the play and went on to win the decisive game.