Jose Tabata just made a name for himself in the most 2015 way possible.
Tabata appeared to lean into a pitch from Max Scherzer with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The pitch plunked Tabata on the elbow, breaking up Scherzer’s bid for a perfect game and setting off a social media firestorm in which the Pirates outfielder was torn to shreds for his questionable act.
Scherzer retired Josh Harrison one batter later to complete his first career no-hitter. The Nationals won the game 6-0. But it’s hard not to feel for Scherzer, who has allowed only one hit, one walk and one hit batter over his last two starts combined — both complete-game shutouts — while striking out 26. The 30-year-old deserved a perfect game, or at least deserved to have his perfect game bid end differently.
Nevertheless, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski determined that Tabata didn’t intentionally lean into Scherzer’s ninth-inning offering — the eighth pitch of the at-bat — and thus awarded the batter first base.
Supporters of “unwritten rules” will suggest Tabata crossed the line by not making a better effort to get out of the way. They might even call for Tabata to be drilled the next time he digs in against the Nationals. But while Tabata leaning into the pitch might have been a jerk move, he’s still well within his right to be a jerk — or at least try to be a jerk, so long as the umpire deems he didn’t intentionally lean into the pitch — even with the Pirates trailing by six runs and most fans pulling for Scherzer.
Life stinks sometimes. And it certainly could be worse than settling for a no-hitter, even if the only thing standing in the way of a more appealing outcome was a stubborn ballplayer with no time for your “unwritten rule” jibber-jabber.
Evidently, playing until the final out is encouraged. Until it isn’t.