On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers by a score of 2-1. A close, low-scoring game typically means that the pitching was great on both sides while the offenses struggled. And while that was true of this game, one specific thing helped lift the Phillies to a win: a phantom run. A run that scored without the runner touching home plate.
The play that scored the phantom run
It happened in the top of the second inning, with the score still 0-0. Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was on second with two outs, and when catcher Jorge Alfaro singled to shallow center, Franco ran for home. And though the ball made it there before he did, Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal couldn’t catch the ball cleanly and dropped it. Franco didn’t slide, but strode across home plate, was called safe by umpire Will Little, and scored the first run of the game
Only he didn’t exactly touch home plate. He touched the home plate area, his toe about a foot from the plate.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) June 1, 2018
That’s not even a little close.
The Dodgers somehow didn’t challenge
For most people watching, it was obvious right away that Franco hadn’t actually technically scored. The announcers (even the Phillies announcers) called it out right away. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told The Athletic after the game that they knew immediately. Franco was aware, too. Some of his teammates even asked him in the dugout if he’d touched home plate, and he told them no.
Umpire Will Little was fooled, too. As the home plate umpire, he was tasked with making those tough plays, and he missed it. After the game, Grandal told The Athletic that he wasn’t amused.
“I obviously didn’t know if he’d touched it or not,” Grandal said. “The first thing I said was, ‘Did he tag the plate?’ And (Little) said, ‘Yes.’”
That, Grandal said, left him with no choice.
“If he calls him safe and is telling me he tagged the plate,” Grandal said, “there’s no reason to go and tag him.”
Besides the umpire, the only people who didn’t seem to know about Franco’s obvious phantom run were the Dodgers. The seconds ticked by and the Phillies waited to see if Dave Roberts would challenge and ask for a replay, but he didn’t. 45 seconds after the play, Clayton Kershaw threw the first pitch of the next at-bat, which meant the Dodgers could no longer challenge the outcome of the previous play. They had essentially given the Phillies a free run, and that run would help them win the game 2-1.
Maikel Franco deserves an Oscar
For his part, Franco charged right into the dugout without looking back, even though he knew he hadn’t touched home plate.
“I didn’t know if the ball was right in front of the catcher so I didn’t have any choice,” he said. “Don’t go back because he has the ball right there. If I try to go right back, I’m probably going to be out. I walked to the dugout and just to see what would happen.”
Franco was shocked that the Dodgers hadn’t called for a replay review, but was delighted his acting job had worked. He acted like he’d touched home plate with absolutely no question, and his confidence sold it. As reliever Tommy Hunter said, “give him an Oscar.”
The Phillies stole a run, and a win, from the Dodgers. It wasn’t the best way for Clayton Kershaw’s first start of the disabled list to end, especially he may be returning to the DL pending the results of an MRI on his back. But the Phillies still needed a phantom run to beat Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen. Any Dodgers fans who are upset can at least take comfort in that.
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