It’s one of the first baseball rules you learn: Three strikes and you’re out; four balls and you walk.
It was a move that went uncontested by the Tigers or home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza, allowing Urshela to claim a free pass at an extra discount.
It’s unclear exactly how the unusual walk happened during what was a nine-pitch battle with one out and nobody on base in a 1-1 game. Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser got ahead in the count, 1-2, before he came up and in with a fastball that clearly deflected off Urshela’s bat for a foul ball. After Funkhouser threw ball two, Urshela fouled off three straight pitches, but somewhere along the way, everyone seems to have lost track of the count.
Funkhouser’s ninth pitch was a wild fastball to the backstop, and Urshela immediately tossed his bat, took off his shin guard and trotted to first. Nobody made a fuss.
At least the walk didn’t cost the Tigers, who got out of the inning unscathed.
“I didn't know about it until after the game,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “And the way it went down, it's obviously our fault on the bench because I could go to replay and get a count check, and we should have done that. The confusing part was the ball that was up in that they actually were looking at to see if it was a hit by pitch, we didn't think was a foul ball. I didn't know if the umpire jumped back, because the ball was close to the head and up and in. And then, you know, three, four pitches later, there's more foul balls and then all of a sudden the ball to the backstop and there's action and he goes to first. We just all missed it, and it's our fault because it should take four balls to walk and nobody said a word and it's embarrassing. Fortunately for us, it didn't come around to haunt us because that could have been ugly.”
“The guy that told me was Casey Mize when we were in the handshake line, so excited. He wanted to make sure that I knew and then obviously our people told us as well. But we escaped that one, because had that run scored, I wouldn't have slept last night.”