With runners at the corners and one out, the Phillies' Ryan Howard hit a ball back to the mound that Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine fielded. Spotting Rollins moving off third base, Sonnanstine ran at Rollins and chased him back before flipping the ball to third baseman Evan Longoria.
Rollins dove left of Longoria into the bag and was ruled safe by third-base umpire Tim Welke, but replays showed that Longoria had actually applied the tag on Rollins' backside before he touched third base. The play became a footnote as Philadelphia rolled over Tampa Bay, 10-2, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic.
"I thought he was out and the umpire thought he was safe," Longoria said. "He made his call, so be it. It definitely was a crucial point in the game, because they end up scoring that run and they go up early. It's tough to play down on the road. To look back and say that is the reason we lost the game is completely incorrect."
Rays manager Joe Maddon emerged from the third-base dugout to briefly argue the call, but he wrote the play off as only a small reason why Tampa Bay stands one loss from elimination.
"That just happened. We did not play very well tonight overall," Maddon said. "We did not pitch as well as we could. We're definitely not swinging the bats like we can. We made some mistakes on defense. I just can't point to one umpiring call and blame the entire event on that. We just didn't play well enough tonight. We've got to get better tomorrow fast."
Welke explained the call after Sunday's game, saying, "I saw the pitcher was coming to third base. So I went back into foul territory and saw [Sonnanstine] flip the ball. I saw Longoria coming in and he was going for Rollins' back on the tag. I just saw [Longoria] swing and miss. I never saw a tag.
"Joe Maddon came out, and I said, 'Joe, I never saw a tag.' And Joe was good about it and left. That's a swipe tag. A lot of times, on a swipe tag, the glove will pause. I saw him try to make a swipe tag, but I never saw the glove pause."
|"Looking back on it now, I probably should have gone to second base, but what happens if I go to second base and air-mail it into center field?"|
|-- Andy Sonnanstine|
"I probably should have went to second right there to go for the double play," Sonnanstine said. "I saw him in the middle of that baseline, and it was instinct to go after him. I think he was out going back to third base."
Rollins did not address the play with reporters.
Sonnanstine said that he thought he would have turned the double play, but, as he said, nothing would have been guaranteed even if he had thrown the ball to second base.
"Looking back on it now, I probably should have gone to second base, but what happens if I go to second base and air-mail it into center field?" Sonnanstine said. "It's tough to say coulda, woulda, shoulda. I'm going to stick with my decision and I guess just go to sleep at night."
The next batter, Pat Burrell, worked a bases-loaded walk as the Phillies scored the first run of Sunday's game. Philadelphia went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the first inning and came into Game 4 having fared 2-for-32 in such situations.
It was Sonnanstine's first career bases-loaded walk, and the right-hander would have escaped the inning on 16 pitches if he turned a double play on Howard's bouncer. Instead, it took Sonnanstine 26 pitches to get out of the frame, as he walked Burrell, recorded a fielder's choice at home plate on Shane Victorino and got Pedro Feliz to fly to center field.
The play was another close call in the Fall Classic for the umpiring crew. The Rays were upset with a non-balk call in Game 1 by Philadelphia pitcher Cole Hamels, the Phils took exception to home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley's signal on a check swing by Rocco Baldelli in Game 2, and replays showed that Carl Crawford should have been out on his bunt attempt when Jamie Moyer flipped the ball to Howard in Game 3.
Philaldephia scored 10 runs in the first three games of the World Series, scoring six on home runs, two on groundouts, one on an error and just one on a base hit -- Carlos Ruiz's ninth-inning infield single to win Game 3. With Burrell's free pass, the Phillies added a bases-loaded walk to that list.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.