Baffling obstruction call against Luis Garcia proves decisive in Nationals’ extra-inning loss to Phillies

The Nationals have not been good this season. On Friday, they weren’t particularly lucky, either.

Washington was trying to dodge a bullet while locked in an extra-inning showdown with the Phillies. With two Philadelphia runners in scoring position and one out in a tie game, J.T. Realmuto smoked a ball past shortstop Luis Garcia’s dive. The ball rolled into the outfield, easily scoring lead runner Kyle Schwarber.

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Trail runner Rhys Hoskins, seemingly unaware that he sits in just the 21st percentile in sprint speed, according to Statcast, made a dash for home from second base. He was easily thrown out; he didn’t even attempt to slide.

But Philadelphia was already arguing that Garcia obstructed Hoskins, although it appeared Garcia was still in the process of trying to make a play on the ball. 

After deliberating for a few moments, the umpires ruled that Garcia had indeed obstructed Hoskins. Furthermore, they awarded Hoskins home despite the obstruction happening while Hoskins was running from second to third.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez was less than pleased. He came out to argue the call before getting ejected.

Unsurprisingly, the call came back to bite Washington. The Nats scored a run in the bottom of the 10th but couldn’t get the tying run in and fell 8-7, capping a doubleheader sweep by the Phillies. Hoskins scored the eventual winning run.

Martinez made it clear after the game that he did not understand, nor agree with, the umpires’ judgment.

Martinez even attempted to coax the game’s pool reporter, MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, into telling him what the umpires said. Zuckerman didn’t budge.

Dan Iassogna, the crew chief for Friday’s game, didn’t provide much clarity when he spoke with Zuckerman. Iassogna laid out why the umpires felt the Phillies were entitled to Hoskins’ run.

“By rule, if we felt like he was in the act of fielding the ball, then we wouldn’t have called obstruction,” Iassogna said. “But we felt like [Garcia] already had an opportunity to field the ball, and then the contact occurred. Once he does that, he’s got to vacate, he’s got to get out of the way of the runner.”

That seems harsh in retrospect. Hoskins’ collision with Garcia appeared to be a bang-bang play.

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Even if that was the case, why wasn’t Hoskins awarded just third base? He was thrown out by a mile at the plate. Here’s Iassogna’s explanation:

“What the actual rule is, once you have obstruction, you’re going to award the runner whatever you felt he would have had, whatever base he would’ve reached, had the obstruction not occurred,” he said. “We felt that he wouldn’t have been thrown out had the obstruction not occurred.”

Philadelphia has now reeled off 14 wins in their last 16 games, finding new life after the club handed manager Joe Girardi his walking papers. The Nats, on the other hand, are floundering in last place in the National League East. The teams will face off two more times this weekend.

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