Padres left fielder Wil Myers lost the ball in the hazy Philadelphia sky. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez backtracked, and couldn't quite make the play -- but third-base umpire Will Little had evoked the infield fly rule.
Without knowing that the rule had been put into effect, the Phils' Odubel Herrera broke for third, where he was tagged out -- for a critical double play in the context of the game. The runner from third scored the tying run, but the Padres escaped without allowing another run and took the lead for good in the next half-inning.
Let's break down the play into three parts:
The fly ball
Manager Andy Green called on the lefty Hand as a favorable matchup for the lefty-hitting Ryan Howard -- who was promptly pinch-hit for. Hand got Ruf to get under a 92-mph fastball.
"I saw it off the bat," Myers said. "Once it got above the stadium, I lost it in the blue sky, and that was that."
With Myers looking toward center fielder Jon Jay for help, Ramirez backpedaled and nearly made the play himself, about 90 feet back on the outfield grass.
When he didn't, Ramirez's instincts told him to throw to third base for the forceout (which wasn't a forceout, because of the infield-fly ruling).
"I was going for it, and it ended up falling," Ramirez said. "It fell, and when I saw that it had fallen, I threw to third."
Little raised his left hand almost immediately, but on a windy day in Philadelphia, the ball carried well past the infield dirt.
The Major League rulebook never specifies that an infield fly must occur in the infield. In fact, the rulebook states:
An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out.
"Of course, the confusion a lot of times is people think that the depth of the fly ball into the outfield comes into play, and that's not a factor," said crew chief Ted Barrett. "It's actually [whether it can be] easily caught by an infielder, with ordinary effort."
Green was watching Myers on the play -- and not Ramirez -- but he was understandably satisfied with the ruling.
"I was looking at Wil looking around the whole stadium to see if a fan would tell him where the baseball was; nobody helped him out -- I don't know if that's just Philly fans for you," Green said wryly. "But Wil never picked it up, so my eyes were on him the whole time."
"I didn't even really see where Alexei Ramirez got to there. If he's turned, squared to the baseball and hands are up in the air, it's the right call."
Once Ramirez fielded the ball on one hop, he threw to Alexi Amarista at third. Thinking he had been forced out, Herrera slowed down. Amarista called it "an instinct" to tag Herrera anyway.
"It was weird, especially because it was a fly ball out to left field," Amarista said. "It looked like it was out to the outfield. I turned, and I didn't know that it was called, so I just thought it was a fly ball."
That tag occurred just before Herrera put his foot on the base. As it turned out, the infield fly rule had eliminated the forceout, and that split-second decision by Amarista may have made the difference in the game.
"I don't think anybody really knew what was going on at that point in time," Green said. "It worked out in our favor that Alexi Amarista did both -- stepped on the base and tagged the runner as well. ... It didn't look like an incredibly assertive tag, so I think we probably caught a break."