WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Matt Williams got a call changed in the bottom of the first inning Friday night against the Brewers, but he didn't need replay.
With Denard Span on first base, Anthony Rendon hit a ground ball to shortstop Jean Segura, who flipped to Scooter Gennett at second. Span slid safely into the base, but interfered with Gennett while standing up. Even so, Gennett was able to throw Rendon out at first base through the contact.
Initially, the umpires ruled the play an automatic double play. Second-base umpire Angel Campos acknowledged Span was safe at second, but then ruled the Nationals' leadoff man out because of interference. Rendon, meanwhile, was called out at first base on the throw.
"I was trying to beat the throw, obviously, and my momentum carried me onto him," Span said. "I was actually trying to stop from running into him and I ran into him anyway."
Williams immediately recognized the bizarre nature of the decision from the dugout and charged onto the field. He discussed with the umpires before the crew huddled together for a meeting.
"My contention was that Angel had called [Span] safe and that he was sliding into the base," Williams said. "There was no indication that [Span] did anything on purpose except beating the throw to second…. If the fielder elects to throw the ball to first base, that's on him."
The umpires took Williams' argument into account and changed their ruling on the field, though it wasn't the call the Nationals' skipper was seeking. The call on the field was not reviewable.
In the MLB rulebook, the penalty mandated for interference is "the runner is out and the ball is dead." The umpires referred to this rule specifically in their eventual decision.
Campos declared that Span unintentionally interfered with Gennett and was therefore out, according to the rule. On the other hand, Rendon was safe at first because after Span interfered, the ball immediately became dead, meaning Gennett's throw didn't count.
"I think they got it wrong, but I can't tell you the ruling on it because I've never seen it before," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Regardless of whether we turned it from there and got the guy at first base, it becomes dead, which, that just doesn't seem right to me."
Span said he was still confused about the call heading into the second inning, so he approached Campos for an explanation while heading to center field.
The second-base umpire told Span that his contact with Gennett was unintentional, which is why Rendon was called safe on the play. If Span's contact had been deemed intentional, Campos said to Span, both runners would have been out.
Span said he wasn't completely content with the rationalization, but it would have to do.
"Hey man, I just play the game," Span said. "I don't referee the game."