There was a bizarre play at Great American Ball Park on Saturday night.
A reminder that baseball can be beautiful and confusing, each in its own way.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, just minutes after Joey Votto smashed his 10th home run of the season to give the Reds a 5-2 lead, a brief sequence of pandemonium ensued.
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With one out, Kyle Farmer hoisted a bloop single into shallow right field.
Right behind him, Nick Senzel charged a line drive into the left field wall with Orioles left fielder Austin Hays tracking it along the way.
Hays, who timed his jump perfectly, trapped the ball off the wall in his glove seamlessly. Hays turned quickly and sent the ball back in.
“I saw it hit the wall but, you know, Farm didn’t,” said Senzel. “And that’s just how it was. It’s not like he’s doing anything, just playing the game. He has a tough angle. It was so weird. It just ricocheted off the top of the wall right into the guy’s glove but he still threw it to first base.”
Farmer was hustling off Senzel’s contact.
“Nick hit it hard,” said Farmer. “I saw (Hays) jump and jump really high and I saw the ball in his glove. I just ran back and did a scorpion slide, possibly concussed, but I don’t know. I feel bad that Nick didn’t get a hit out of that because you hit a ball that hard you’re supposed to get a hit. I just thought he caught it.”
As Farmer was scurrying back to first base, he passed Senzel, who stopped and raised his arms in confusion.
“A scorpion slide is when your feet go like this,” Farmer said, gesturing with his hands. “You know a scorpion looks like that. My feet were the scorpion stinger.
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Farmer’s face collided with the dirt around first base.
“The ground hit me in the face. My arm got caught and my face met the dirt,” said Farmer.
Initially, the Orioles left the playing field as if they had turned an inning-ending double play, but Senzel and Farmer stayed near first base, bewildered.
The umpires convened briefly and Reds manager David Bell joined them. Then the umpires made their way to Baltimore’s dugout to meet with Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
“You think you know the game,” said Bell. “Then some things happen and they happen really fast. Clearly Farmer thought he caught the ball, which is very understandable. He scrambles back, Nick saw he didn’t catch it, he’s running.
“… To still have a runner out there at the end of all that, we were happy with that. I thought the umpires did a nice job. I went out to ask if they had called it a catch. They did a really nice job of sorting it all out and explaining it. They were definitely on top of it.”
Senzel was called out and was not awarded a hit because Farmer did not advance another base. Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini was credited with an unassisted putout based on the rule, which states: “When a runner is called out for passing another runner, the official scorer shall credit the putout to the fielder nearest the point of passing.”
Senzel said, “I wasn’t too thrilled, but you know, I’ve had a little bit of time to think about it. No ill intent. We’re trying to win, trying to play, and things like this happen. It’s just weird how it happened.”
Umpire crew chief Larry Vanover explained the sequence after the game to a pool reporter.
“We have a batted ball off the wall into the fielder’s glove,” said Vanover. “You have a base hit on the play. The runner that was on first he’s running to third, he thinks the ball is caught. He goes back to first. They throw the ball in. Now the batter runner, who hit the ball, touches first and he passes the runner who is on first, so he becomes out for passing. So there is one out on the play. The guy that was on base comes back to first and he’s safe. That makes two outs in the inning so we continue to play.
“The runner on first didn’t see it. It was a confusing play. I’ve never been involved in a play just like that. It was the first.”
Jake Fraley, next up for the Reds, belted a two-run home run to extend the lead to 7-2.
For all its glory, baseball and confusion seem destined to be together.