MIAMI -- The offense-deprived Reds have had plenty of trouble crossing home plate lately, and Thursday night was no different vs. the Marlins. But this time, when their path to the plate was allegedly blocked, a controversial new rule and a lengthy replay review paved the way to victory.
A 3-1 Reds victory won't be remembered for Johnny Cueto's pitching, some nice defense behind him nor Ryan Ludwick's two-run single that put his team ahead. This one was all about Rule 7.13, which was instituted before this season to prevent home-plate collisions.
"I'm not saying that the rule is good or whatever, but according to the rule, in my opinion, they got the call right," said Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, who was the subject of the disputed and game-changing play.
Trailing 1-0 and generating little against Marlins starter Tom Koehler, opportunity finally came in the eighth inning for the Reds. A leadoff pop fly from Cozart was dropped by second baseman Jordany Valdespin for an error. Devin Mesoraco followed with a pinch-hit lined single to left field.
Reliever Mike Dunn took over to face Billy Hamilton, who sacrifice bunted. Dunn fumbled the ball for an error that left everyone safe and the bases loaded. With one out against another reliever in Bryan Morris, Todd Frazier lifted a fly ball to Giancarlo Stanton in medium-range right field. After the catch, Cozart attempted to tag up and score from third base.
"The way things have been going offensively for us, I was trying to make something happen," Cozart said. "The pitcher on the mound had good stuff. Frazier got the ball out there, and I went home."
Stanton's throw easily beat Cozart to the plate, and he was tagged out by catcher Jeff Mathis without sliding for what was originally ruled an inning-ending double play. Cozart immediately protested, and Reds manager Bryan Price indicated that Mathis was blocking the lane to the plate for the runner to score. It became a crew-chief review.
"In my view, and the way I interpret the rule, that was wrong," Cozart said. "I really didn't know what to do because he was in front of the plate. It was kind of an awkward thing to not be able to slide or anything. I had a good idea the call would get overturned."
Following a six-minute, 10-second review, the call by home-plate umpire Mike Winters was indeed overturned, because it was determined that Mathis violated Rule 7.13 in blocking Cozart's path to the plate. The runner was ruled safe and the Reds had the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
"The throw clearly beat our guy, Cozart, and he was out by a fairly reasonable margin," Price said. "The catcher from the inception of the ball going off the bat had taken away the entire plate. He had separated the plate with his feet. His body was in the middle of the plate. It's not a tough call to make, but it's a tough judgment to have to take. We're trying to protect the catchers; I get it. I imagine in the offseason there will be some serious discussions about changing that rule."
After Hamilton stole second base, Ludwick's lined two-run single to center field off Morris provided the go-ahead runs.
"To lose a ballgame tonight on that play is a joke. It's an absolute joke," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who was ejected after the overturned call for arguing. "I don't think anybody who plays this game should feel good about winning that game. And I would say that if had been reversed. That guy was out by 15 feet. It was a great baseball play."
The wins haven't come easy or often for the Reds these days. If victory should come because of a break in their favor after a controversial replay review, they won't complain.
"We've been scuffling, it's no secret, to score some runs," Cozart said.
Losers of 10 of their previous 12 games, the Reds had only scored 24 runs in those games.
"We needed this one," catcher/first baseman Brayan Pena said.
The three-run eighth made a winner out of Cueto after he allowed one run and four hits over seven innings with one walk and nine strikeouts. A two-out homer to left field in the first inning by Stanton was his only blemish. Hamilton threw out Casey McGehee at the plate trying to score on a double later in the first inning. A diving play by right fielder Chris Heisey prevented another run from scoring in the fourth.
"The only thing that we have to do is just stick together, we have to continue to grind and stay competitive," Cueto said, with Pena translating.