'Just a weird ending': Rox clock Nats with first-of-its-kind walk-off

June 23rd, 2024

DENVER -- Tie game. Bases loaded. Full count. Ninth inning. No outs. For the Rockies’ , “When you’re a kid, those are the moments you dream up.”

But no kid's dream ever ended with the plate umpire -- in this case Hunter Wendelstedt -- springing from his box and tapping his wrist in a “you’re late” manner.

That’s because the 2024 MLB leader in pitch-clock violations, Nationals closer , committed his ninth. No other pitcher has more than five. The automatic ball forced in the winning run in the Rockies’ 8-7 victory.

It was the first game to end on a pitch-clock violation since the rule was introduced for the 2023 season. Possibly the least weird aspect is that the setting was the theater of weirdness, Coors Field.

“It’s only fitting we get the first pitch-clock violation,” said McMahon, who came back from an 0-2 count to have time tick in his favor.

Despite the lapse, Finnegan has been a reliable go-to for the Nationals; he is ranked third among all relievers with 21 saves.

“At first, I didn’t really know what he called because I thought I was right on time. I wasn’t,” Finnegan said. “So it kind of dawned on me that I was too late. Just immediately, [I] felt awful about letting the team down in that big spot there. To lose the game in that way, it just can’t happen.”

What’s the rule?

Pitchers are allowed 15 seconds with no runners on base. In this case, after the Rockies hit four straight singles -- including Brenton Doyle’s to drive in the tying run and Ezequiel Tovar’s to reload the bases -- the limit is 18 seconds, a two-second reduction from last season.

The batter must be in the box and attentive with eight seconds left on the clock.

Read all 2024 MLB rules changes, here.

How unique is this?

For Finnegan, despite his proven effectiveness, not very. He leads all pitchers in 2024 with nine clock violations, ahead of the Blue Jays’ Chris Bassitt, the Guardians’ Tyler Beede and the Braves’ Reynaldo López -- each with five.

Finnegan’s violation was the fourth in the pitch-clock era with the bases loaded. Ray Kerr (then with the Padres), Naoyuki Uwasawa (then with the Red Sox) and Roansy Contreras (then with the Pirates) are the only other pitchers to do so. Finnegan’s, however, was the only such violation that resulted in a walk-off.

The Nationals’ last game that ended in a walk-off loss was May 6, 2023, at Arizona. Finnegan allowed two runs on two hits and three walks (one intentional) in that blown save.

Again, a walk-off in this manner is brand spanking new for regular season, postseason or even Spring Training. But, baseball being baseball, a game ending on one is not unique. A Braves-Red Sox Spring Training game in 2023 ended in a tie when Braves batter Cal Conley, violated the eight-second rule.

What the Rockies saw?

Manager Bud Black: “How about that? The Rockies and the Nationals are a part of history.”

McMahon: “I never look at [the clock]. After I get in by eight seconds, I’m not looking at [Wendelstedt]. I’m letting the umpire do his job.”

Hunter Goodman, who had a ninth-inning single: “That’s crazy. Wasn’t there one in Spring Training, like last year? I’ve never been a part of that, but that’s awesome. I mean [McMahon] he was putting together a real good at-bat.”

What the Nationals saw:

Manager Dave Martinez: “You’ve got to have some awareness, [Finnegan] could have stepped off. It’s a tough situation, but it’s something that he’s got to be mindful of.

“He’s just slow, that’s who he is. He’s a closer. It burned him today, but typically it hasn’t burned him.”

Finnegan: “I’m just trying to focus on the pitch and the location. I thought I’d picked up the clock. I guess by the time I picked up and looked at the catcher and delivered the pitch, I was just a hair too late.

“I’m not going to change everything. Obviously, it’s been a thing for me but it’s something that I use and I’ve just got to be better about it. I like to use the clock to my advantage, but I’ve just got to make sure there’s still one tick left. I didn’t do that tonight, and I paid for it.”

Shortstop CJ Abrams: “By the time I saw it, it was really too late to yell anything. Probably couldn’t hear it anyways; it was loud out there. It was just a weird ending.”