Somewhat lost amid the euphoria of Roy Halladay’s historic no hitter against the Reds in game one of the NLDS was the fantastic play made by Carlos Ruiz to end it. The quickness of the Phillies’ catcher not only helped preserve history, but all helped avoid controversy. Why? Because on a careful review of the play, it looks like the batted ball hit Brandon Phillips’ discarded bat.
If you look closely in the video above, the ball seems to strike the bat (5:05), at which point it stops moving forward and starts rolling along the barrel. Ironically, had it not hit the bat, Ruiz may not have had a play. Luckily, when it struck the bat, it didn’t disrupt Ruiz. Otherwise, another no hitter would have been left in the hands of an umpire’s judgment.
Rule 6.05(h) states “after hitting or bunting a fair ball, the batter-runner drops his bat and the ball rolls against the bat in fair territory and, in the umpire’s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, the ball is alive and in play”. So, had Ruiz been unable to make the play, John Hirschbeck could have been faced with a controversial decision. Although it doesn’t look as if Phillips intentionally threw the bat to cause interference, you couldn’t blame Hirschbeck if he got caught up in the emotion of the situation.
Hirschbeck could have been presented with another controversial call if Ruiz’ throw, which was made from his knees, struck Phillips on his way to first. Referring to the video once again, Phillips was running well onto the infield grass before angling back toward the bag. Hirschbeck would have been correct to rule interference, but how many times have we seen an umpire fail to make that call? Although such a throw would have still been ruled an error, could you imagine the uproar if the next batter managed to get a hit?
Thankfully, the athleticism of Carlos Ruiz made all of the above moot, thereby allowing baseball to celebrate a historic accomplishment without the tinge of controversy.