WASHINGTON -- There may never be another game quite like this one.
What ensued over nearly four hours on Wednesday at Nationals Park was equal parts comedy and lunacy, a confluence of multiple rare happenings that resulted in an 8-7 Pirates win over the Nationals to snap a five-game losing streak on the most eclectic afternoon all season.
“That’s baseball for you,” Beede said. “You’re never going to see the same game twice. This was a unique one.”
The sequence that elevated this game to noteworthy to bizarre involved an edict that most Pirates had never seen in action.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Hoy Park on second and Jack Suwinski on third, Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a line drive toward first base. Park and Suwinski both ran on contact. Nationals first baseman Josh Bell made the catch and threw to third baseman Ehire Adrianza, who tagged Park for the double play, then stepped on third base. An important detail: if Adrianza stepped on third base before applying the tag, Suwinski would’ve been doubled off, not Park.
Before Adrianza tagged Park, Suwinski crossed the plate. The Nationals, then, exited the field. Washington did not intentionally state that it wanted to appeal a fourth out, nor did it appeal before the fielders entered the dugout, which allowed Suwinski to score.
Per Rule 5.09(c)(4), known as the “fourth out” rule, “Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play. If the violation occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field.”
Several minutes of confusion ensued. Pirates manager Derek Shelton and an animated Nationals manager Dave Martinez both convened with the umpiring crew. The Nats came back onto the field, only to leave once more. Park and third-base coach Mike Rabelo remained at third base for the entirety of the debacle.
Several Pirates didn’t understand what was happening in real time. Shelton, though, had long been prepared for such a scenario.
“The fourth out rule enters my mind all the time. We had a situation last year against the Giants at home on a walk-off, and they argued something very similar on an appeal,” Shelton said. “That’s why we always tell our pitchers to stay on that side [of the foul line], because if something does come back, especially with replay, you want to be able to go back and do it.”
The bizarreness of that half-inning made Reynolds’ three-homer day, by comparison, look like an everyday occurrence. Of course, the feat was a rarity in its own right.
Reynolds’ career-high six RBIs couldn’t have come at a better time. The Pirates entered the day having lost five straight and 17 of their past 22 games. They were in danger of a winless road trip. Enter Reynolds. With three swings, All-Star center fielder almost single-handedly sent the Pirates back home with a better vibe.
“Bryan Reynolds carried us to a win today,” Shelton said. “We jumped on his shoulders. It was huge for us.”
Even with the home runs and weird rules, the accoutrement made this game a truly wacky affair.
The 5-6-3 double play is a somewhat rare occurrence. The Pirates had turned two this season before Hayes, Oneil Cruz and Josh VanMeter teamed up to turn three double plays of that variety.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, César Hernández’s opposite-field, bases-loaded single should’ve yielded two runs, but Keibert Ruiz, the lead runner, retreated to third base instead of running on contact. Yadiel Hernandez, the runner on second, was forced to slow down and was thrown out by Suwinski as both he and Ruiz converged at the plate around the same time. That this happened during the half-inning immediately following the “fourth out” ruling was just the cherry on top.
Every baseball game is a blank canvas, the possibilities infinite. This sport has been around for more than a century, but there’s always the chance for an original and fresh drama to unfold. On Wednesday afternoon, those at Nationals Park witnessed one such day.