Orioles get incredible break with umpire’s controversial call to end White Sox game

MLB's umpires found themselves in the news again after Thursday's Orioles-White Sox ending.
Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox
Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles' game against the White Sox on Thursday night in Chicago shouldn't have warranted much attention. The 2024 White Sox are basically a Triple-A team that is just trying to not get too embarrassed on any given night, and Baltimore probably welcomed the break that playing them should provide.

However, things definitely got weird on Thursday. As expected, the Orioles held a commanding 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth in Chicago. In a hilarious turn of fate, Baltimore turned to the guy that had just been called up to replace John Means and who no one was excited to see back, Jonathan Heasley, to give them two innings at the end of what should have been a breezy win.

Heasley's first inning went okay, but the bottom of the ninth saw him give up two walks, then two singles before Yennier Cano had to be brought in to try and stop the bleeding. A hit by pitch and a bases-loaded single later, and the White Sox somehow found themselves right back in the game.

The Orioles then had to send Craig Kimbrel, who has been his own kind of adventure this year, to try and close the game out. He did so on his second pitch, but not in the way anyone thought, as the Orioles' 8-6 win ended on yet another controversial call from the MLB umpiring crew.

Orioles get rare "infield fly rule - runner interference" double play to end White Sox's rally

So the gist of what happened here is that the White Sox's Andrew Benintendi hit a pop up with Andrew Vaughn on second base that was instantly called an out via the infield fly rule. That part isn't that weird, although the infield fly rule remains one of the worst defined rules in baseball.

Where the problem came is that very early in the play, Vaughn strolled back to second base and made slight contact with Gunnar Henderson, which made him move around him a little bit as he was getting under the pop up. The umpire at second base saw this and called Vaughn out for interfering with Henderson's ability to field the ball. The end result was one of the more bizarre unassisted double plays you will ever see. Henderson caught the ball easily. He was not hindered whatsoever, in reality. Vaughn, wandering back to the bag blindly, affected him only by the letter of the law. Even for O's fans, this felt like a gift.

MLB's umpires have worn out a lot of goodwill lately, given how inconsistent they have gotten with balls, strikes and rules enforcement in recent years, but it seems like they actually got this one right. Vaughn certainly wasn't trying to tackle Henderson or even impede him, but intent doesn't matter, and having a guy bump into you (even slightly) while you are trying to track a pop-up in the air does technically meet the standard of interference from the runner.

Ultimately, this is a game that shouldn't have been close to begin with, as the Orioles' bullpen implosion created some unnecessary drama. However, that doesn't mean that the umpires got this one wrong, as much as White Sox fans want to try and argue otherwise.

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