White Sox 7, Rangers 6: Victory via violation

White Sox celebrate ruling at the plate
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire)

We haven’t really heard much about the plate-blocking rule since the 2014 season because some rough edges got smoothed out after some feedback, and catchers formed habits pretty quickly afterward, but tonight’s game reminded me of what the rule’s opponents feared at the onset.

With Elvis Andrus on second and two outs in the eighth inning of a game tied at 6, Zach Remillard floated a single to left field. Eddie Rodríguez waved Andrus home, and Travis Jankowski made an on-target, one-hop throw to Jonah Heim, who planted a tag on Andrus’ elbow an inch before Andrus’ hand touched home plate. It was clutch hitting negated by clutch defense; a Great Baseball Play™.

The White Sox called for a review because there wasn’t much to lose, and when the call came back from New York, it turns out they had everything to gain.

Andrus was ruled safe, not because an angle showed his hand beating the tag, but because Heim was called for blocking the plate.

That possibility didn’t cross my mind, and the White Sox broadcast and national audience on Twitter seemed equally surprised, because Heim received the ball in what seemed to be a fair place, and Andrus’ hand took a direct path to the plate without obstruction. But Heim was flagged for standing on the plate before the ball arrived, first with his left foot while watching the play, and then with his right foot as the throw came in.

It makes sense in the abstract, because standing on or straddling the plate before the ball arrives makes it easy to drop a knee on the baserunner as he’s coming in — or for a baserunner to shatter some lower leg bones if that foot is planted — but Heim didn’t seem to violate the spirit of the rule with the way he applied the tag to Andrus. The letter of the law trumped an aesthetically pleasing action sequence.

Regardless, that’s how the White Sox won, because Kendall Graveman went on to have the only drama-free inning of any White Sox reliever for the save. The Sox are now just 4½ games out of first place.

The evening was already plenty charged before rulebook-reading became necessary, because this oscillated between thrilling victory and gutting loss a few times beforehand. The Sox took a 2-0 lead after one, lost it by the top of the fifth, regained it in the bottom of the fifth, lost it in the top of the seventh, and trailed for the first time in the top of the eighth.

It was a rare White Sox game where the offense covered for so many imperfections elsewhere, at least after Dylan Cease left the game.

Cease pitched well, holding the Rangers to just two runs on five hits and two walks over six innings while striking out nine. He hung a curveball to Adolis Garcia for a solo shot in the fourth, and Marcus Semien and Corey Seager showed their mettle with a couple of two-out hits in the fifth, but that represented all of the damage. His slider did the heavy lifting, accounting for 19 of his season-high 24 whiffs.

The White Sox restored the two-run lead in the fifth thanks to Andrus’ go-ahead homer off Nathan Eovaldi, followed by a productive three-batter sequence: an infield single by Remillard, a first-to-thirding single by Andrew Benintendi, and an RBI chopper from Andrew Vaughn. Cease capped off his night with a 1-2-3 sixth.

And then it got silly.

Keynan Middleton entered and failed to retire any the four batters he faced. He gave up a singles to Jankowski and Leody Taveras that put runners on the corners, and then Semien turned a 1-2 count into a nine-pitch walk to load the bases. Seager once again came through with a two-run single that tied the game at 4, and Pedro Grifol came out to pull Middleton for Gregory Santos.

With runners on first and second, Santos immediately achieved the desired outcome by getting Josh Jung to roll over a well-located slider for a routine 6-4-3 ball to short. But Andrus flubbed it, and couldn’t even settle for the fielder’s choice, leaving Santos to effectively record five outs.

Which he did. He threw another one of those well-located sliders to García, who hit a bouncer to third that Jake Burger turned into a force at the plate. Santos then hammered Nathaniel Lowe low and in for a four-pitch strikeout, and got Heim to ground out to second to escape the jam with no runs allowed.

When Santos departed, however, he was in line for the loss. He allowed an infield single to Jankowski on a mile-high chopper of the plate, and then Taveras singled through the left side to turn over the batting order. Santos retired Semien on a routine flyout to right, which brought Seager to the plate.

Grifol called for Aaron Bummer despite Bummer’s ineffectiveness against left-handed hitters this year, and the reverse splits once again stuck. He fell behind 2-0 on two sliders well off the plate, and when he tried to get back into the count with a sinker, he left it over the plate, and Seager rifled it to the right-of-center gap to score both runners for a 6-4 Rangers lead.

The Texas bullpen has been the team’s only vulnerable area, and even the White Sox could take advantage. Luis Robert Jr. drew a one-out walk off Grant Anderson, and Yasmani Grandal followed by dropping a single to left. Grifol then opted to empty the bench by having José Rodríguez run for Grandal in his MLB debut, and Tim Anderson hit for Clint Frazier.

The latter move didn’t really make sense, but Anderson’s grounder to the right side was too soft and toward first base for Semien to do anything but settle for the out at first, and Andrus capitalized on the swinging sac bunt with a single through the right side that scored both runners to tie the game at 6. García, who has a great arm, trusted it too much and threw home, which allowed Andrus to take a key 90 feet. Remillard then padded his WPA total by hooking an 0-1 slider over shortstop, and the rest was left to the lawyers.

Bullet points:

*Eloy Jiménez followed Andrew Vaughn’s opposite-field single with an opposite-field homer in the first inning, breaking a streak of nine straight homers with the bases empty.

*Frazier took a couple of frantic routes in center. He made a basket catch in the first inning, but wasn’t as successful on Seager’s fifth-inning double, which was hit directly over his head. That might’ve been why Robert entered as a defensive replacement on what was supposed to be his day off.

*Bummer picked up the win despite allowing the go-ahead runs to score.

*The bottom of the order loomed large for both teams. Texas went 4-for-9 with a walk and five runs scored from the eighth and ninth spots, while Andrus and Remillard were 4-for-8 with three runs and four RBIs for the Sox.

Record: 32-43 | Box score | Statcast

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I bailed on the game. I’ve seen this movie before. Joke’s on me this time.

So, is this the game we look back and realize it was the season’s fulcrum? Probably not.


Most buttons and switches the white sox hit do nothing, when they manage to hit them.


Feels like when he enters mid-inning high leverage, Bummer routinely falls behind with non-competitive sliders, then either stays missing the zone to issue the walk, or gets tagged on a room service fastball.

I’m sure I’m not alone vouching that I’d be apoplectic if I were a Rangers fan. Reading the explanation I’m not confident my mood would change. Wouldn’t really wanna hear it. He was out. What is Heim to do?

Nice win tho, showed some mettle with the sticks and got the hits that eluded them last night. We shall take it

Last edited 3 months ago by ChiSoxND12
Joliet Orange Sox

I don’t understand this rule and do not know if it was correctly applied. I will say that when watching the play in slow motion just as Andrus plants his left foot in the fungo circle he seems to abruptly adjust his path to aim for the firstbase side of the plate instead of the thirdbase side. This awkward step did slow him down. It may have been in response to Heim blocking off the plate except the corner nearest first base. Does that violate the blocking rule? I dunno.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox

In interview after the game, Andrus said that Benintendi motioned to him which direction to go. Maybe that was a function of where catcher was setting up or maybe it was benintendi reading the trajectory of the ball. In any case, I wish they reserved the overturn for blatant violations.

As Cirensica

This is a good point. It was one of those borderline calls that happened to decide a game. Rules are rules even if they don’t pass the eye test. Heim sort of broke the rules by standing on the home plate while waiting for the ball, if he is allowed that, then the rule can’t be enforced and loses meaning necessary for other no doubt rule breaker plays. To me, my eye test, Andrus was out, but I don’t seat in a New York booth.

Last edited 3 months ago by As Cirensica

Yeah. I didn’t see the play and I’m sure I’d be pissed if I were a Rangers fan. But I understand the reasoning. I mean, the play was bang-bang. A split second makes all the difference. If no path requires the runner to adjust mid-stride, that could make the difference.


The closeness of the play contributed. If Andrus was out by a mile, then they’re not calling it. Since the tag got him juuuust before his hand got in, the reasoning must have been that Heim’s plate blocking forced Andrus to try and slide across the baseline, both slowing him and making him much easier to tag, and thus Andrus would have beat the play if Heim had been standing in front of home plate waiting for the throw as is standard these days.


Andrus plants his left foot in the fungo circle he seems to abruptly adjust his path to aim for the firstbase side of the plate instead of the thirdbase side

I only just watched the play but as stated in my reply to Jim it seems to me that Andrus was trying to avoid the bat which was directly in his path.


How can he possibly block the plate when the runner is nowhere near it? It’s a bogus rule.


If Heim was on the first base side of home plate Andrus would have had a clear path to the plate but Andrus would still have had to take some type of evasive action to safely reach the plate in order to avoid sliding on top of the bat with his groin (assuming he still would have gone in head first) because Remillard’s bat was sitting directly in his path as he barreled home.


Pedro Grifol with the 5 head move. Fraizer probably hits his ground out quick enough to hit into a double play but if your batter cant even hit it hard enough to get the force at 2nd then you avoid the DP.


Big ups to Gregory Santos for that clutch performance. It’s good to see other teams get sinker and slidered’d to death for once.

And Pedro has (rightly) gotten a lot of flak, but Tony doesn’t challenge that play at home and we probably lose that game. So there’s that at least.

As Cirensica

He did something Tony wouldn’t have done. This is a strange praise to Pedro. Valid though, but strange.


I mean, he demonstrated an in-game awareness that Tony just didn’t have. It’s not much, but it’s something.


Secretive gay MLB umpire cabal rules against the Rangers on all challenges for the month of June for being the only team without a Pride night. Tonight Kopech’s zone will be twice as wide as Perez’s 🙏


Oddity: if Tim plays the last few games instead of Remillard, the White Sox likely now have a 6-game losing streak.

Scott K

Someone else take a look at this because I’m either on something or on to something, but..

I think that before Andrus slides in, the front part of the plate is partially covered with dirt. As he slides across it, the plate seems to get bigger, because his body cleans it off. If this is true, it’s possible Andrus was safe anyway, because the still-shot we kept seeing of when his hand hits the visible part of the plate might actually have been a frame late.

I also think the tag skipped his elbow and got him closer to the armpit area, which made it closer than I initially thought, as well.

In any case, the blocking the plate call was pretty bogus. Yeah, Andrus did stanky leg it a little bit as he was gearing up to slide, but it still seemed like he had a lane. I understand the ruling…I just don’t think it’s fair to catchers and should be looked at in the offseason.

Scott K

One other thing I thought of about Bummer getting the W last night. If this isn’t a perfect example of a time when the official scorer should use his discretionary right to award the win to a subsequent, more effective reliever, then what is? Bummer needs to donate that win to charity.


And most of his salary, too.