In the bottom of the fourth inning of the Yankees and Astros’ ALCS Game 4, with Aaron Judge on first base, Gary Sanchez popped up to right field.
As any good Little Leaguer can tell you, the proper play for Judge was to go maybe a third of the way to second base in case the ball dropped, then scurry back to first when it was caught. But Judge, in a moment of inexplicable absent-mindedness, lingered all the way at second, until the ball landed in outfielder Josh Reddick’s glove and he was forced to belatedly retreat.
Judge should have been out at first, but Reddick’s throw to first base was short and off-line, resulting in a close play at the bag. The first-base umpire ruled the runner out, but the Yankees challenged, and replay soon showed that Judge was, in fact, safe.
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But at some point during the review process, the Astros (along with the rest of us) realized that Judge had never re-touched second base after rounding initially, as the rules require him to.
Now here’s where things get weird. The Astros were not allowed to challenge the play until they had appealed, so they lined up to toss the ball to second. But Houston’s first attempt at an appeal was waved off because the next hitter was not in the batter’s box and play had therefore not officially resumed. When the Astros attempted to appeal once again, Judge, knowing he would be out one way or another, took off for second. Shortstop Carlos Correa tagged him out on an alarmingly close play. Naturally, Girardi signaled to his staff that he wanted to check the replay on the out—because if Judge had beaten the throw to second, he would have gotten to keep the base—but the Yankees mercifully opted not to challenge.
Because the Astros never got a chance to officially appeal at second, Judge’s out goes down officially as the most bizarre caught stealing we’ve seen in a long time.