Walkoff errors in the postseason

The Giants won Game 3 of the NLCS on an attempted sacrifice bunt, which turned into an error when Randy Choate threw the ball into rightfield, allowing the winning run to score from 2nd base.  Here’s a clip:

Immediately on twitter, lots of people were talking about the rarity of this.  Here’s one typical tweet I read (by a verified journalist no less):

This was sixth walkoff error on postseason history and first since Buckner’s error vs Mets in Game 6 of 86 WS

Hhmmm… I can remember a few since then.  Someone else posted this at about the same time:

The #SFGiants are the first team to win a postseason game on a walk-off error since the #Yankees on October 17, 2009 (ALCS game 2).

Ok, at least this writer is only going back 5 years and not almost 30.

But people have very short memories. Just in last year’s World Series, Game 3 ended when Allen Craig was awarded home plate on an obstruction call – which was charged as an E5 to Will Middlebrooks.And in today’s information age, there’s no excuse to not do some basic fact checking before posting something, although in the twitterverse there may not be time as everyone wants to be the first one to share some nuggets of wisdom.  But I’m not writing to rant about people’s stupidity.  I do that enough, and in fact have a whole other blog dedicated just to that. In keeping with the intent of this site, this post is about what is and isn’t scored as an error.

After the game I saw on twitter and on baseball message boards people talking about variations of this:

Didn’t the Middlebrooks game end on an error?

and explanations including

No, it was interference (sic)* which isn’t scored as an error

and

 you can’t charge an error when going for a double play, and they already recorded an out at home

Let me clear up some of this confusion:

First of all, YES, the Middlebrooks game DID end on an error.  Here’s the clip for anyone who wants to relive it (it’s the kind of play that even Red Sox fans don’t mind watching since we didn’t lose another game the rest of the year).

Why was it an error? Well, as explained on the errors rule article, errors are charged to fielders who cause obstruction resulting in award of bases to runners.  This is spelled out pretty clearly in scoring rule 10.12 (c)

When an umpire awards the batter or any runner or runners one or more bases because of interference or obstruction, the official scorer shall charge the fielder who committed the interference or obstruction with one error, no matter how many bases the batter, or runner or runners, may advance.

Don’t think there’s much room for misinterpretation there. Allen Craig would have been out at home, but was awarded the base due to obstruction.

What about the bit that you can’t charge an error when going for a double play?  There is wording about that in rule 10.12 (d) (3) which I’ll quote in its entirety here:

The official scorer shall not charge an error against any fielder who makes a wild throw in attempting to complete a double play or triple play, unless such wild throw enables any runner to advance beyond the base such runner would have reached had the throw not been wild;

In other words, if a middle infielder makes a wild throw to first base trying to complete a DP, no error is charged (as long as the batter doesn’t end up on 2nd).  But this exception only applies specifically for wild throws where the runners don’t get any additional bases.  In all other cases, an error is charged.  (For example, if a good throw is made but the 1st baseman drops the ball, he will get charged with an error even though it was trying to complete a double play). In any case, this exception has nothing to do with obstruction, so Will Middlebrooks did get charged with the error, and you only have to go back one year to find a postseason game walkoff on an error… not to a time before anyone had heard of Homer Simpson.

Anyhow for your interest, here is a complete (I think… if someone wants to correct me, please do and I’ll update) list of all postseason games that finished on an error:

1914 WS Game 3 Braves 5 – A’s 4 – almost exactly 100 years ago, R1,R2 and the pitcher made a throwing error in the 12th on a bunt, trying to get the lead runner at 3rd, who scored on the play.  I tried to find a video clip, but apparently whoever videotaped this game didn’t have the foresight to upload it to Youtube.

1969 WS Game 4 Mets 2 – Orioles 1 – same situation, the pitcher who had just come into the game, made a wild throw to 1st to try and retire the pinch hitter for Tom Seaver, who earned a 10 inning CG win.

1972 ALCS Game 1 As 2 – Tigers 1 – After 10 scoreless innings, the Tigers got 1 in the top of the 10th on a HR by Hall of Famer Al Kaline.  In the bottom the usual situation was set up, but on a bunt, they actually retired the lead runner, setting up an R1, R2 1 out situation.  Then on a base hit to the outfield which scored the tying run,  Kaline went from hero to goat by making a wild throw to 3rd base to try and get the trailing runner, who scored the walkoff run.

1986 – you already know the details of this one. Some ground ball error,  AFTER a passed ball that was inexplicably ruled a wild pitch had already allowed the tying run to score. Yes, I’m still bitter, Mr. Gedman.

1996 ALDS Game 2 Yankees 5 – Rangers 4  The now familiar R1,R2 nobody out, sac bunt attempt. Charlie Hayes bunted to third baseman Dean Palmer, who threw the ball away at first base allowing some guy named Jeter to score the walkoff run and allow him to be remembered for something other than being a historically poor fielding shortstop.

2009 ALCS Game 2 Yankees 4 – Angels 3 With R1,R2 1 out, Melky Cabrera hit a routine double play ball to 2nd base, but the throw to retire the runner going to 2nd went into the outfield, allowing the winning run to score.

 2013 WS Game 3 Cardinals 5 – Red Sox 4 – The Middlebrooks obstruction game referenced above.

2014 NLCS Game 3 Giants 5 – Cardinals 4 – The game that inspired this post. Video at top of page.

* The “sic” is because it was obstruction, not interference. Interference is generally what an offensive player does and he and/or the batter and/ or the lead runner get penalized for it, not the defense.  But this blog isn’t about umpiring rules, so I won’t say more than that.
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About Ruben Lipszyc

I write about baseball. I'm a member of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Blogger's Alliance, and I write about my Red Sox and keep Albertans up to date on local baseball happenings at RubensBaseball.blogspot.com. I occasionally also write articles for the Canadian Baseball Network at www.CanadianBaseballNetwork.com.

Posted on October 17, 2014, in MLB Situation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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