ST. PETERSBURG -- Major League Baseball's new rules regarding slides at second base loomed large Tuesday night as Jose Bautista was called out for runner interference at second base in a play that saw two apparent runs negated and left the Blue Jays with a 3-2 loss to the Rays.
Tampa Bay was clinging to a one-run lead when Edwin Encarnacion stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning. Encarnacion hit a grounder to third base, and the Rays attempted to turn a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Logan Forsythe made the turn at second, but his throw to first was well off line and two runs came around to score as Toronto appeared to take a 4-3 lead. Tampa Bay asked for the play to be reviewed, and it was determined that Bautista had interfered with Forsythe at second.
Under the new rule 6.01(j) runners have to make a "bona fide slide," which involves contact with the ground before reaching the base, attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, and being able to remain on the bag at the completion of the slide.
In this particular case, Bautista appeared to overslide second base, and he also reached out with his left hand and made contact with Forsythe's foot. The replay officials in New York ruled that Bautista's slide hindered and impeded the fielder, and they also called him for runner interference because he did not remain on the base.
"The rule's put in to protect players," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "You saw what happened last year in the playoffs. ... You know what, it is what it is. We're happy we won, but I can understand the frustration on the other side. We all deal with that a little bit in this game, and especially with the replay, what it's brought out."
Major League Baseball made changes to the rules surrounding slides at second base this offseason. In the past, runners were given a lot of latitude around the bag as long as they were close enough to touch the base. This became a controversial topic when Chase Utley took out Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in a violent collision during the postseason.
"My feet were aiming straight at the bag," Bautista said. "I felt like I was within reach. I didn't go directly at him. As far as I understood, I was assuming contact was still OK and obstructing his path was still OK as long as you stayed within reach of the bag and your feet were headed towards the bag. I feel like I respected the rule, felt like it was absolutely a clean slide. It's just disappointing and somewhat embarrassing to lose a Major League Baseball game [that way]."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons immediately ran onto the field to argue the decision, but to no avail. Gibbons had this reaction in the aftermath, saying something that he'll wish he hadn't when the dust settles: "Maybe we'll come out and wear dresses tomorrow. Maybe that's what everybody's looking for."
Gibbons was livid not only with the call but with the rule itself.
"It's a shame," Gibbons said. "I get the intent [of the rule], you go after somebody, you hurt somebody, I get that. But that's good baseball, that has been baseball forever. Maybe they just want them to run and get out of the way. I don't know."