Polanco's potential double-play throw wasn't merely deflected in the ninth inning on Friday night, it made solid contact with the raised hands of baserunner Lou Montanez, turning what might've been an inning-ending double play into a wayward throw that allowed an extra run to score and extended the inning for three more runs after that. The act itself wasn't the subject of debate; it was a matter of whether it was intentional.
If a baserunner intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, he can be called out according to Rule 7.09(j). Second-base umpire Kevin Causey ruled that Montanez did not intentionally go for the ball with his hands as he slid, and a conference of the umpiring crew reached the same conclusion. Polanco was ejected soon after.
"I've played a lot of games, and I've never seen anybody do something like that," Polanco said Saturday of the play.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland came out to argue the play alongside Polanco. He didn't want to discuss the play later, but he understood the dilemma.
"Those can be real tricky, whether it's interference or whether it's not interference," Leyland said after the game.
Understandably, Orioles manager Dave Trembley did not see interference, though he said he did not look at replays afterwards.
"I saw it right here," Trembley said on Saturday. "I thought it was fine. I think the key words in the rulebook are 'impair, impede, intent.' I didn't see any of those three. He just went straight in. I think he did OK."
It was a solid play, but it came at a price, as Montanez injured his left hand and was out of Saturday's starting lineup as a result. He later entered the game when Jay Payton was ejected for arguing a play at first base.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.