(Reuters) – The Washington Nationals turned a controversial call against them into a motivational surge on Tuesday when they battled back from misfortune to even the World Series and force a deciding Game Seven.
The Nationals seized the night with a do-or-die 7-2 victory, but it was a play in the top of the seventh inning that stole the spotlight as the umpires took center stage for all the wrong reasons.
With the visiting Nationals clinging to a 3-2 lead and Yan Gomes on base, Washington’s Trea Turner hit a ball toward third base and appeared to beat a throw to first base by Astros pitcher Brad Peacock.
A sprinting Turner arrived at first base just as the throw did and collided with the glove of Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel as the ball rolled away.
Turner advanced to second, and Gomes to third with no outs. That is until Turner was called out for interfering with the throw, setting off heated debates that will last well beyond the game.
“I thought I did everything possible to run a straight line and not interfere,” Turner told a television interview following the game.
“For me, the batter’s box is in fair territory and so is the first base line. So if I’m going to run a straight line from the batter’s box I’m going to be in fair territory. I guess it is what it is.”
The Nationals protested the call, and following a five-minute review the ruling stood. It was later explained that the interference call is not reviewable because it is a judgment call, and that the umpires were contacting the Major League offices during the delay to relay that the Nationals had lodged a protest to the game.
Washington wiped away their adversity two batters later when Anthony Rendon belted a towering two-run homer to put the Nationals ahead 5-2. Washington celebrated with extra emphasis given the turn of events.
“I was actually pretty happy about the delay. I got to sit down for a little while before I got the at-bat,” Rendon said. “It’s just part of the game. We’re all human, mistakes happen. No one is going to feel sorry for you.”
The home run did little to cool Nationals manager Dave Martinez who was still fuming in the middle of the seventh inning and was ejected for angrily confronting the umpires.
“In the heat of the moment, things get blown out of hand. I saw things differently,” Martinez said after the game. “I don’t want to make this about me and take away from what the boys did tonight.”
Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s chief baseball officer, defended the umpire call following the game, despite endless replays that appear to show Turner running within the baseline as he reached first base.
“The call was the fact that he interfered with Gurriel trying to catch the ball. If you notice, the glove came off his hand. That’s when Sam Holbrook called him out for, basically, interference,” Torre said.
“They made the right call at first, and that it (could not be protested) because it’s a judgment call. I understand the passion.”
Game Seven is on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Kim Coghill)