Alec Bohm’s left foot almost certainly did not touch home plate in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday night at Truist Park.
He scored anyway.
Bohm’s controversial game-winning run salvaged the Phillies’ trip to Atlanta with a 7-6 victory. Controversial because television replays appeared to show Bohm’s foot missing the plate as he slid to beat the throw from Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Controversial because, despite a variety of camera angles that seemed to confirm that fact to the Braves, their fans at the ballpark and others at home, replay officials in New York did not overturn the call.
So, was Bohm safe?
“I was called safe,” Bohm said. “That’s all that matters.”
“It was by the skin of his big toe, I think, that we scored,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It looked like his big toe kind of hit the corner of the plate, when we saw a lot of the angles.”
The Braves had a much different, much stronger reaction about the play that cost them the game. It was understandable. The Phillies swept them in Philadelphia’s season-opening series at Citizens Bank Park last weekend. The Braves had the opportunity to return the favor. And, in a potentially tight National League East, one game could mean the difference between a division title, a Wild Card or planning a hunting and fishing trip in October.
“Everyone saw it and sees it,” Braves left-hander Drew Smyly said. “For MLB not to overturn that, it’s embarrassing. You know, why even have replay if you won't overturn that? They say there wasn’t enough evidence, but there's five different angles. It's clear. He didn't touch the plate.”
“It makes me not even want [replay] anymore,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “Honestly, it just slows the game down. It took like five minutes for them to decide that and, to me, they got it wrong. So I'd rather just not have it and get the game going.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker expressed his thoughts to the umpiring crew at the ballpark after replay officials said the call would stand.
“It’s just frustrating sometimes, and that's what I told the umpires,” he said. “I’ve got a view of the big screen that he didn’t touch the plate.”
What led to that moment was a great game. Ronald Acuña Jr. set up Ozzie Albies’ two-run homer in the first inning with incredible hustle on a routine ground ball to Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius. Rhys Hoskins and Gregorius each homered for the Phillies in the fourth to give them a 5-3 lead. Freddie Freeman hit a game-tying homer in the fifth. Bryce Harper hit a go-ahead homer in the sixth. Acuña hit a game-tying homer in the seventh.
It remained tied until the ninth. Bohm ripped a leadoff double to right-center field against Braves left-hander Will Smith. Jean Segura’s groundout to second base moved Bohm to third.
That set up Gregorius, who thought he needed to hit a relatively deep fly ball to score Bohm. Instead, he hit a shallow one to left, only 230 feet from home plate. Gregorius tossed his bat. He thought he messed up. But Phillies third-base coach Dusty Wathan had been in Bohm’s ear. He told him to be ready to tag.
“I thought it might have been short,” Bohm said.
Wathan had different ideas.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” he said.
Wathan wanted Bohm to go. So, Bohm went. He ran as fast as he could and tried to find a good angle to slide. He took the inside of the plate. At first glance, it looked like Bohm beat the tag from Braves catcher d’Arnaud. Home-plate umpire Lance Barrett called Bohm safe, making it the Phillies’ shallowest sacrifice fly since Statcast began tracking outfield depth in 2015. The second-shortest? Andrew Knapp scored from third on a 236-foot fly ball to left field in Miami in July 2017, when Ozuna played for the Marlins.
“I was surprised that they sent him, because I did not hit it deep enough,” Gregorius said.
“We felt that we had a chance,” Girardi said. “We talk about those things before the game. Dusty goes over all the analytics with outfielders and their arms and the speed of the baserunners. We just felt that we had a shot. And it was a narrow one.”
Bohm said it felt like an hour while replay officials looked at the play.
“It was quite a relief,” he said.