CHICAGO — Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal claimed he didn’t intentionally get in the way of a throw from Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to catcher Martin Maldonado as he ran to first base during a key moment in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night.
“I wish I could tell you it was a heads-up play,” Grandal said after the White Sox’s 12-6 win to stave off elimination in the best-of-five series. “I didn’t even know I was running that far inside the line. I was actually just trying to get to first.”
The Sox were leading 7-6 with runners on first and third and no outs when Grandal hit a ground ball to Gurriel, who attempted to cut down Luis Robert at the plate.
As the Sox’s catcher ran toward first while on the grass to the left of the chalk, he was hit by the ball coming home to Maldonado. It deflected away from the Astros’ catcher, allowing Robert to score and the inning to continue without the Astros getting an out on the play. Houston claimed interference.
“I tried to make the argument that he did get in the way,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Interference would be called only if Grandal intentionally got in the way of the throw. All six umpires huddled on the infield grass, eventually declaring there was no intention.
“We decided that there was no interference because on that play, where the ball is hit to the infield and then coming back to the plate, that 45-foot line does not even come into play,” crew chief Tom Hallion said. “The batter established his basepath when he came out of the box and started running. He didn’t veer off. He didn’t throw up his shoulder. He did nothing intentional to get hit with that ball.”
The play is different than if the throw was going to first to get Grandal. Then he would subjected to interference without intent, but the throw home is no different than one to any other base. If it hits the runner, it’s a live ball and no interference is called.
“I was arguing the fact that especially him being a catcher, he knows what he was doing,” Baker said. “I mean, that was a smart play on his part, and that was the explanation that they gave me that they didn’t see anything wrong with the play.”
White Sox manager Tony La Russa was adamant the ball hit Grandal accidentally and not intentionally.
“There’s no way he could do that on purpose,” La Russa said. “I guarantee you that there was no intent to interfere with that play. I can guarantee it.”
The Sox scored another run in the inning then added three more in the eighth to become the first team to score at least 10 runs in a playoff game and strike out at least 15 hitters in the same contest. Houston struck out a total of 16 times on the night, but the game was still in doubt when the Grandal play occurred, helping keep the series alive for the home team.
“It takes me a long time to get there [first base], so as I hit the ball, I’m looking down,” Grandal said. “As I look up, I see the ball kind of coming straight at me. I try to get out of the way, and it hit me.”
Game 4 is Monday afternoon.