Tossed objects halt action after interference call in seventh
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field didn't end without incident, as a sellout crowd vented its anger with an umpire's call and the men in blue pulled the Rockies off the field for eight minutes in the bottom of the seventh inning when fans pelted the turf with objects.
"We get tired of having water bottles thrown on the field," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who went out to discuss the matter with the umpires, and waved his team off the field. "That's all. It's just there comes a point in time where you need to make a point that enough's enough."
Second-base umpire Larry Vanover raised the collective ire when he made an interference call on Justin Upton after the Diamondbacks right fielder came in with a high slide to upend Rockies second baseman Kaz Matsui on the front end of a double play.
Augie Ojeda, who had grounded to third, was automatically deemed out at first base.
The Rockies won, 5-1, and were leading by that score at the time. The Rox took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues here on Friday night. They have won an amazing 18 out of 19 since Sept. 16.
The Diamondbacks won the NL West and this is the first time all year the home crowd has shown that kind of emotion.
"Obviously, we don't condone that," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "You don't want stuff being thrown on the field. We're not in favor of that."
Melvin came out to argue the call, but to no avail.
"Obviously, I didn't agree going out there. But I think [Upton] was in a position where he could touch the base."
Said Upton: "I told [Vanover] I was close to the bag, that the rule is to be within touching distance of the bag, and I told him I was. He said nothing back."
A small portion of the sellout crowd of 48,142 became unruly almost immediately after the call. During the brief intermission, the field was cleared of garbage and the game was able to resume. The D-backs were unable to score despite having four baserunners in that inning.
"The fans couldn't hear the announcements," said Richie Garcia, the supervisor of umpires, who was in attendance. "I believe there were three or four announcements, and they couldn't hear them. So we took the players off the field. We've got to do something."
"Once the situation arose, we did all we could do to bring it to a stop," added Derrick Hall, the D-backs' president. "We went to the cheer [scoreboard prompt of 'Let's Go D-backs']. And we ceased alcohol sales at that time. The fans were obviously upset, and expressed their emotion.
"It's too bad that it became about the umpires, but I guess it showed our fans aren't that apathetic after all."
According to Major League Baseball Rule 7.09(f), it is interference by a batter or a runner "when and if, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner."
Chris Snyder had opened the inning with a double and Upton had been hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with none out against Colorado left-hander Jeff Francis. Ojeda grounded to third baseman Garrett Atkins, who made the relay throw to second. Matsui took the throw and decided not to make the relay, stepping off the base toward the third-base side, where he was knocked over by Upton.
After Vanover made the call, Snyder was sent back to second base as per the rule.
Matsui said he had no chance of making the throw to first and that Upton had elbowed him in the right knee, "where I was standing."
Running interference in Game 1
Justin Upton was called for interference in the seventh inning according to Major League Baseball Rules 7.09 (e) and 7.09(f).
It is interference by a batter or a runner when ...
(e) Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;
(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
Vanover opined that Upton had clearly gone out of his way to break up the play.
"You had obvious intent on the part of the runner to break up the double play, and when it turns into intentional, that's when he's out for interference, and then the batter-runner is also out for the action of his teammate," Vanover said. "Once he got to the base, I thought he threw his hip up into the guy, and his intent at that point is not to get to the base. His intent is to crash the pivot man, so you've got obvious intent there."
Upton was already mired in a mess before he even reached first base. Rockies stellar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki thought that his fellow rookie had stared down Francis after being hit with the pitch.
"When he got hit in that situation, that's obviously the last thing Jeff is trying to do," Tulowitzki said. "I didn't appreciate him staring down Jeff. In that situation, you should be happy you got hit by a pitch and you should just be quiet and go to first base."
Upton, though, said his motions were misinterpreted.
"There's nothing I said that was directed at Francis," Upton said. "[Tulowitzki] obviously thought so. He was standing at shortstop so he didn't know what I said. Obviously, he thought I was saying something. That's his business."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.