DENVER -- Not even the interpretation of the procedure for replay challenges is working the way the Rockies would like.
Their seventh loss in eight games, 8-4 to the Astros on Wednesday night, was still in doubt in the third inning when a replay ruling went against the Rockies -- and led to the ejection of manager Walt Weiss. The Rockies left Coors Field still convinced they were correct.
Of course, Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick gave up two more home runs to raise his total to 18, and the Astros went deep four times to lift their total to 10 in three straight victories over Colorado. Still, the Rockies lost much-needed momentum in the dispute.
With DJ LeMahieu batting and two out in the third, Charlie Blackmon beat catcher Jason Castro's throw on a steal of second. However, Astros manager A.J. Hinch would correctly challenge that Blackmon's feet left the bag when he popped up. Shortstop Carlos Correa kept his glove on him for an out.
However, the Rockies were livid, noting that LeMahieu was in the batter's box and Astros pitcher Brett Oberholtzer was on the mound when Hinch challenged.
The rules state the challenge must occur before the next play, and:
The next "play" shall commence when the pitcher is on the rubber preparing to start his delivery and the batter has entered the batter's box (unless the defensive team initiates an appeal play in which case any call made during the play prior to the appeal still may be subject to Replay Review).
"Pitcher on the rubber, batter in the box, it's too late to challenge the previous play -- that's the way we were told before the season started," said Weiss, ejected for the second time this season and fourth time since taking over the club in 2013.
Weiss said the explanation from the umpires was "the replay crew in New York said it wasn't too late. I'm not sure what their reasoning was."
However, umpiring crew chief Jerry Layne told a pool reporter from The Associated Press that Hinch could challenge because he was at the top step of the dugout. Layne's explanation is based on a memo entitled "Instant replay Modifications," issued before the season.
"He can initiate from the step," said Layne, who listened to Weiss' argument with home plate umpire Bob Davidson. "They're looking at it. Sometimes it takes a little more for them to get the full replays in, from their guy that is looking at it, to tell them on the phone.
"So basically Walt was not happy that [Hinch] was allowed to challenge. But I don't think Walt understood when he actually initiated his challenge. You don't have to come out on the field anymore. I felt the challenge was within the guidelines, that he went to the top step."
Hinch felt he was in some gray area, which turned out the right place for the Astros.
"That was a weird," Hinch said. "I probably should have gone out there, more out onto the field. It's an awkward time where you go out on the field, you're waiting for a play, you don't want to slow the play down for nothing, but at the same time I put my foot on the top step, which generally indicates the play is going to stop."
LeMahieu said he knew Blackmon would have been out on a challenge and jumped into the box to negate the possibility -- much in the same way football teams try to run a play to prevent the opponent from requesting replay.
"They knew I was in the box," LeMahieu said. "I don't think they were sure where the pitcher was."
Third-base coach Stu Cole saved the normally calm LeMahieu from ejection by ushering him away from Davidson and Layne.
The Rockies could've used a few more baserunners. They pulled to within 3-2 the next inning but the Astros kept slugging.
"It fired me up a little bit," LeMahieu said. "But we needed more than that."