The National League wild-card race took a highly unusual turn Thursday night thanks to an apparent missed call of a ground-rule double in the bottom of the ninth in the Cincinnati Reds – St. Louis Cardinals game.

That call gave the Cardinals a win and helped them in their wild-card positioning battle with the Giants and Mets. Here’s a GIF of the play in question, a hit from the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina that scores Matt Holliday from first:

As this photo from TCB’s Matt Clapp illustrates, the ball clearly hit the wall behind the wall, which is supposed to be a ground-rule double in that park and which would have left Holliday on third:

cardinals-ground-rule-double

That would have left runners on second and third, but not scored the winning run. The ground-rule double wasn’t called, though, and according to the umpires, the Reds didn’t signal interest in a challenge within the supposed margin of time. That’s supposed to be indicating interest in a challenge within 10 seconds and challenging formally within 30 seconds in general, but “immediate” in the case of game-ending plays. Reds’ manager Bryan Price came out of the dugout after 33 seconds, according to MLB Network’s unofficial clock, but then had to chase the umpires down the hallway, as they’d already left the field. They then told him he was too late. From Derrick Goold, who covers the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Meanwhile, the umpires appear to have admitted later they got it wrong:

The umpires have the ability to review scoring plays themselves, but they didn’t exercise that in this case. After the game, Price went off on the decision in a postgame interview scrum carried on MLB Network’s MLB Tonight:

“It’s a terrible rule,” Price said. “How do you let a game, any game, but in this case one with playoff ramifications, end over 10 seconds?”

He said the 10-second idea is impossible given the circumstances, especially as the Reds couldn’t see the play from their dugout and couldn’t hear the phone advising them to look at it thanks to crowd noise.

“The umpires give our team 10 seconds at the culmination of the play, 10 seconds to decide if they wanted to challenge it or not,” he said. “You had four umpires on the field that didn’t see it hit the back fence. How are we, below field level, supposed to see it hit up against the wall in 10 seconds? Crowd noise, couldn’t hear anything. And then all of a sudden, someone starts screaming, hey the ball hit the top of the wall.”

Price said he wasn’t mad at the umpires, but rather the system that suggests only 10 seconds (or “immediate”) for a situation like this.

“I’m not blaming the umpires, but the system of 10 seconds,” he said. “10 seconds isn’t enough in that situation. How are we supposed to know that 350 feet away? And you can’t hear the phone.”

He said the finish was especially bad considering the potential playoff implications.

“That’s ludicrous,” Price said. “It’s ludicrous. And I’ll tell you, the San Francisco Giants, they’re going to be all kinds of upset after that. …”It was a great game, a well-played, hard-fought game that should not have ended that way.”

MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds went off on the decision too, criticizing it for almost 20 straight minutes on MLB Tonight. Reynolds’ “The Cardinals stole a game!” was particularly strong, as was his “From an integrity standpoint for the game of baseball, this is something that’s got to get changed.” Here are some clips of their criticisms:

This is an ugly finish, and it sure looks like a black eye for MLB. The “immediate” rule seems ludicrous in a game-ending situation, where calls should be looked at more carefully if anything, and 30 seconds in general seems too short for this. The Cardinals may still have won without this call, but they may not have; we’ll never know. This could wind up in a rule change eventually, but that will be too late if it winds up impacting the playoff race.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.