Perhaps with a little help from a few fans in Detroit, Victor Martinez got some revenge against the Oakland A's.
A day after the Tigers' designated hitter was involved in an on-field argument with A's pitcher Grant Balfour, Martinez hit a disputed home run off left-handed Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle. With the Tigers facing elimination in Game 4 of the ALDS and trailing 4-3 in the seventh inning, Martinez lofted a fly ball to deep right field. A's right fielder Josh Reddick broke for the wall at Comerica Park. As he reached the warning track, he leapt, reaching his glove above the yellow line at the top of the wall.
Then things got interesting.
A pair of fans standing at the railing atop the wall reached out. One touched the ball, deflecting it into the other. After touching both fans, the ball dropped back to the outfield. Reddick immediately pleaded for a call of fan interference. The umpires signaled home run as Martinez circled the bases.
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At the behest of A's manager Bob Melvin, the umpires reviewed the play. After review, umpire crew chief Gary Darling indicated that the home run call had been upheld.
Did the umpires get the call right? Would the ball have cleared the yellow line without the fan contact? Would Reddick have made an incredible catch without these guy in the way? Should Martinez have been called out? Do we have another Jeffrey Maier?
Opinions seemed to vary on Twitter.
What a game. Call me when my heart starts again. Probably wrong call on HR. Should be Interference/not reversed instead of HR/not reversed?
— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) October 8, 2013
i doubt it’s interference, but can replay snuff out a jeffrey maier play?
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) October 8, 2013
Here's a GIF of the Victor Martinez home run that wasn't fan interference: http://t.co/UVB8sSj2mk
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 8, 2013
Will need another look, but that kinda looked like fan interference on Victor Martinez's HR
— Sporting News MLB (@SN_Baseball) October 8, 2013
Rooting for the A's here, but you can't call the fan interference there.
— John Breech (@johnbreech) October 8, 2013
Here is the text for MLB rule 3.16 governing interference:
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
The rule is accompanied by a comment that may relate to this incident:
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectators interference. Example: Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short distance from home plate.
After the home run evened the game, 4-4, the Tigers added a go-ahead run later in the seventh en route to a 8-6 win.