The Charleston RiverDogs picked up a walk-off win Tuesday night to deal a blow to the Asheville Tourists’ playoff chances. Now they'll have to try to do it again.
The Tourists became one of the rare teams to successfully protest a game as South Atlantic League commissioner Eric Krupa ruled on Wednesday that home plate umpire Ryan Powers had called time before the winning run came home in Charleston's apparent 4-3 win.
The game will now be completed Wednesday night before the Tourists’ and RiverDogs’ scheduled game. It will be reset to where it was when time was called. The game is tied 3-3 with runners at first and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth and Alexander Palma at the plate.
The play that led to the protest was a wild one. With Asheville leading 3-2, Donny Sands grounded to first base Josh Fuentes who threw home. Bo Thompson beat the throw home to tie the game. Asheville catcher Dom Nunez argued the call before the argument was quickly taken over by Tourists manager Warren Schaeffer sprinting from the dugout.
As that argument started, Powers signaled that time was called. But just after he did that, Nunez fired back to first to try to pick Sands off as he had rounded the bag and started to second. That inspired Austin Aune to sprint home, beating the throw and setting off the RiverDogs’ celebration for their apparent win.
And if it hadn't been for the fact that the game was being televised by MiLB.tv, that's possibly where it would have remained. While the umpire never noted after the play was over that he had called time, the broadcast had a clear camera angle showing Powers calling time. He signaled both with his hands and with a cleary visible vocal “time" call.
“Even the most novice lip reader can figure that out," Sally League commissioner Eric Krupa said.
For Krupa, it was the first protest he'd received as the league commissioner. While in-game instant replay has not come to Minor League Baseball, that does not apply to protests. The video evidence made what could have been a difficult decision much easier.
“We're in a situation where not all of our ballparks have video. The exact same situation in a ballpark without MILB.tv…?" Krupa said. “I was able to get the video fortunately and the fact that the director called for the camera angle at just that time was incredibly valuable."
Rule 7.04 of the MLB (and MILB) rule book states that any protest has to be filed before the next pitch or play occurs. But if the protest is over the final play of a game, that protest must be filed before noon of the next day. Given a chance to see that there was clear video of the play and the time out call by the home plate umpire and given time to mull over their options, the Tourists quickly saw they had a pretty clear case.
The Tourists had to put in writing their formal protest. No protests of a judgement call by an umpire are allowed, but in this case the team was able to successfully argue that a rule was misinterpreted.
It made Krupa's and the league's life easier that the two teams were already scheduled to play again on Wednesday.
The protest could end up having playoff ramifications. The Tourists, a Rockies’ affiliate, are currently tied with the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate, for second place in the Southern Division. Since the Savannah Sand Gnats won the first half and the second half, the second place team in the division will advance to the playoffs.