MILWAUKEE -- For the second time in less than a week, a game ended controversially on baseball's new slide rule. This time it was the Astros who were left steaming after their ninth-inning rally against the Brewers was cut short.
In the midst of a four-run rally in the ninth inning that brought the go-ahead run to the plate with one out, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was called out at first base for a game-ending double play after the umpires deemed Colby Rasmus slid illegally past second base following Altuve's grounder. The Brewers won, 6-4.
Under the new rule 6.01(j), runners have to make a "bona fide slide," which involves contact with the ground before reaching the base, attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot and being able to remain on the bag at the completion of the slide.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch admitted the rule was properly interpreted, but he said there should be some context to allow such a slide because Rasmus had to decide to make a late decision to slide, little or no contact was made with the shortstop Jonathan Villar and no throw was made to first, where Altuve would have been safe.
"It was interpreted right, but the rule needs clarification because I think it's wrong," he said. "Especially when you're asking athletes to compete at the highest level as fast as they can in last-minute decisions. It is a joke we lost the game based on that when there wasn't intent or contact. It was a baseball slide."
On Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Jose Bautista of the Jays was called out for runner interference at second base in a play that saw two apparent runs negated and left the Blue Jays with a 3-2 loss to the Rays. Crew chief Tom Hallion told a pool reporter Friday that the correct call was made on the Rasmus play.
"My second base umpire [Dan Bellino] determined that it was not a bona fide slide because Rasmus did not attempt to stay on the base," he said. "He could not stay on the base. With that, that is the rule of interference."
Hinch contends Rasmus, while running full speed, had no choice but to slide past the bag considering he didn't know second baseman Scooter Gennett was throwing to second until he was nearing the base.
"You got guys that are going full speed for 90 feet and they're going to slide past the base," Hinch said. "That's against the rules? You get penalized and the game's over, which ruined a very interesting ending to the game and it counts. These games count. If this happens in September, everybody will freak out, too, but I'll remember this one if it impacts us. He broke the rule, the rule was applied, and it was a shame."
The Brewers didn't necessarily agree with how the rule was interpreted, either, and Gennett said they didn't intend to turn two.
"It's not a way that you want to win a ballgame, but at the same time, we'll take it," Gennett said. "The new rule, it's going to take some time to let it sink in. In certain situations [as a runner], when you have a fast runner at the plate and the ball is hit slow, you have to try to think about it on your way to second. 'Is this even possible for this guy to turn?' Those are things we're going to have to think about."
Rasmus said there wasn't much more he could have done to avoid sliding past the base considering the ball wasn't hit particularly hard and the play was slow to develop.
"Since I got into this game we've been taught how to play, and to me that was very mild of a slide, so it's kind of hard," Rasmus said. "It's so bang-bang. It's quick and it happens fast. Like I said, there wasn't nothing malicious about that slide. I just picked my leg up and went on past the bag a little bit there. It's crazy. They didn't even attempt to make a throw, and they can end the game on that. We've got to start governing ourselves and learning how to deal with it."