Red Sox-Braves game ends on automatic strike call

February 25th, 2023

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- The importance for both pitchers and hitters to adjust to baseball’s new pitch timer rules was evident Saturday afternoon, when an automatic strike concluded a 6-6 tie between the Braves and Red Sox at CoolToday Park.

Plate umpire John Libka ended the game when he issued the automatic strike with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count against Braves second baseman . Libka ruled Conley wasn’t ready to hit in time.

The rules, which are being implemented for the 2023 season, state that a batter must be in the box and alert to the pitcher when there are eight seconds on the clock. The catcher has to be in the box behind home plate with nine seconds on the clock, standing or crouched.

The batter must be ready on his own – it is not dependent on the catcher squatting. Therefore, as a league official confirmed, the correct call was made.  

“These are the kind of things that tell you why we’re starting this right now,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You never know what might happen. That instance right there shows you what could happen.” 

Red Sox reliever Robert Kwiatkowski was ready on the mound as catcher Elih Marrero was slightly off the plate adjusting something on his wrist as the pitch timer reached eight seconds. Libka threw his arms up and pointed to Conley, who was moving toward first base thinking an automatic ball four had been called. 

“We were talking about it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We were looking at the clock and going, ‘Something is going to happen here.’ Actually, because Elih goes out, 3-2, two outs, he tells the infielders, runners are going, go to first. But he needs to get back at his position before nine seconds. And then that happened.”