Updated: April 10, 2014 10:20PM
At first glance, it looked like a test case for Major League Baseball’s new anti-collision rule at home plate.
Instead, the fourth-inning sequence Thursday that resulted in the Cubs’ fourth run of their 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates turned out to be a collision of MLB’s highest-profile rule changes — the home-plate rule and the replay-challenge rule.
The questions and speculation started flying almost as soon as plate umpire Mark Carlson called Starlin Castro safe after Starling Marte’s throw from left field appeared to beat Castro and catcher Tony Sanchez appeared to apply the tag in time.
Even Castro thought he might be out, especially after he watched the video later, he said.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle quickly emerged from the dugout to talk with Carlson, but he returned to the dugout almost as quickly without challenging. That led to two hours of speculation that the call must have involved the rule against a catcher blocking the plate.
But Carlson said after the game, “I didn’t have him violating any rules for the collision play. If he has the ball securely, he would have been able to block the plate. [Castro’s] foot touched the plate before the catcher had possession and control of the ball.”
Crew chief Jeff Nelson said the collision rule is covered under the challenge rule, so Hurdle could have asked for a review either way. Why didn’t he?
“Because I chose not to challenge,” Hurdle said. “If I give you any other answer, we got 10 more questions.”
Castro said he believes the umpire ruled that Sanchez bobbled the ball as Castro slid in. But after watching the replay in the clubhouse, Castro said he thought he was out.
Sanchez called the play “infuriating.”
“You put your body on the line for your team, trying to save a run,” he said. “I don’t know what [Carlson’s] reasoning was, how he calls him safe. The ball beat him. I held on to the ball. The kid slid into me. It’s just … I don’t know. Unfathomable.”