Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Veteran savviness already comes in handy

Aug 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Whit Merrifield (1) is initially called out by umpire Marty Foster (60) at the plate on a tag by Minnesota Twins catcher Gary Sanchez (24) during the tenth inning at Target Field. Merrifield scored on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Cavan Biggio (not pictured) to left fielder Tim Beckham (not pictured). The call was challenged by the Twins and overturned, ruling Merrifield safe on the play due to the catcher blocking the plate. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Whit Merrifield (1) is initially called out by umpire Marty Foster (60) at the plate on a tag by Minnesota Twins catcher Gary Sanchez (24) during the tenth inning at Target Field. Merrifield scored on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Cavan Biggio (not pictured) to left fielder Tim Beckham (not pictured). The call was challenged by the Twins and overturned, ruling Merrifield safe on the play due to the catcher blocking the plate. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays won a close game on Sunday afternoon, and it was in part thanks to a savvy play by a veteran baserunner in Whit Merrifield.

The 33 year old had entered the game in the 9th inning as a pinch hitter for Bradley Zimmer, who had just replaced Raimel Tapia in centre field two innings earlier. However, with two runners on in the top of the 9th it made sense that manager John Schneider turned to Merrifield, especially against a southpaw on the mound at the time in Caleb Theilbar.

Unfortunately Merrifield wasn’t able to come through at the plate in the top half, and the Twins scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 2-2. That set the stage for Merrifield to make his impact on the game as a baserunner in the 10th.

To begin with, Merrifield moved up to third base on a fly ball from Santiago Espinal. It was a bit of a risk to advance on a ball that wasn’t hit overly deep, but the former Kansas City Royal’s speed was just enough to get him there under the tag after a strong throw from Byron Buxton. As if that play wasn’t close enough, Cavan Biggio followed it up with another relatively shallow fly ball to left field, and this time Tim Beckham threw a strike that was there in time to nab Merrifield at the plate.

The difference this time was that Merrifield’s quick-thinking made a huge impact, and it’s a reflection of his experience playing at the highest level. Because of it, eventually the call was overturned and he was ruled safe as the go-ahead run.

For that are confused by what happened, here is the MLB rule about catcher’s blocking the plate on a play like that:

"“The catcher is not permitted to block the runner’s path to the plate unless he is in possession of the ball, though blocking the path of the runner in a legitimate attempt to receive a throw is not considered a violation. The runner can be ruled safe if the umpire determines the catcher violated this rule.”"

What was interesting about the play was that the Twins had a genuine case that their catcher, Gary Sanchez, was just receiving the ball where it was thrown in from left field. Even if I ultimately agreed with the call from the replay booth in New York, I can understand why Rocco Baldelli and the Twins were upset with the ruling.

What made me smile ear to ear after the game was hearing Merrifield talk about the play, and indicate that he slid into Sanchez intentionally with the rule in mind. It was a split-second decision, but I 100% believe him based on what we saw on the replay. Merrifield arguably could have tried to slide to the outside of the plate and swipe his hand as he went by, but he saw an opportunity to take advantage of something in the rule book, and he made it count.

Next. Thank goodness the Jays passed on Matz. dark

That kind of savvy thinking makes a big difference, and in this case it was the source of the winning run in a very important game for the Blue Jays against a fellow American league contender. He may have only played two innings on Sunday, but Merrifield’s veteran experience made the difference in the outcome, and I can’t help but think that won’t be the last time before this season is all said and done.

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