When is a home run not a home run?
The Marlins found out the hard way on Monday when J.T. Realmuto’s blast into the Home Run Sculpture at Marlins Park was negated. The reason: Realmuto passed teammate Marcell Ozuna on the base path — a violation of Rule 7.08 (h).
The unusual play — there have been only 15 documented instances in major-league history of a player losing a home run because of the base running rule — did not prevent the Marlins from pulling out a 4-1 victory over the Brewers.
But it — and the pitching of Jose Fernandez — were the story lines.
Fernandez delivered seven scoreless innings, striking out 11 along the way. He is now 20-1 for his career at Marlins Park. Fernandez would have received even better run support if not for the base-running gaffe in the second.
After Ozuna reached on one-out single, Realmuto hit a towering fly ball that dropped into the base of the Home Run Sculpture in left-center.
But as Ozuna retreated to first as if preparing to tag up if the ball had been caught, Realmuto passed him. The Brewers challenged the play and, after umpires reviewed the replay, concurred that the Marlins were in violation.
“It was my mistake,” Ozuna said. “That cost us one run.”
Ozuna said he apologized to Realmuto.
“I say, ‘Sorry. I feel bad. It’s not going to happen anymore,’” Ozuna recounted. “And I tell it to my teammates.”
But first base coach Perry Hill blamed himself for the mistake. He said he yelled for Ozuna to go halfway between first and second. When Ozuna returned to first, Hill said he should have started looking for Realmuto to tell him to stop.
“My fault,” Hill said. “I should have stopped J.T., so it’s my fault. There’s a lot going on. But once I can’t get Ozuna to go halfway, once I see him coming back, I have to stop [Realmuto]. I’ve done it a hundred times before. I just didn’t do it that time.”
Whoever was to blame, it made for an interesting postgame conversation piece. Some Marlins players said they didn’t really see that it was any one person’s fault. It was just a strange confluence of circumstances.
“It was weird, because when I went out to hit, they said they were overturning it,” Fernandez said. “And I said, ‘What’s going on?’ But what matters is the result today, and that’s all I care about.”
Realmuto said he held no hard feelings despite losing a home run.
“It was just an honest mistake,” Realmuto said. “I was not looking at Ozuna because I was watching the ball. And then he was thinking it was going to be caught in center field, and he was going to try to tag, make a hustle play, really. There’s no bad blood anywhere.”
Realmuto was credited with a RBI single and ruled out. No home run.
According to Retrosheet.org, the last time a home run was taken away for the same reason was in 1986. Lou Gehrig had a home run taken away in 1931 after he passed a base runner. Gehrig finished that season tied for the league home run title with Babe Ruth.
“I don’t think it’s going to cost me a home run title,” Realmuto said, laughing.
It was a night of Little League-type mistakes.
Derek Dietrich tripled and then scored in the seventh when the throw to third struck him and bounced away. And Ozuna dropped a routine fly ball in the sixth.
The Marlins took a shutout into the ninth before A.J. Ramos walked the bases loaded (while also striking out two). Bryan Morris was brought in and walked the first batter he faced, forcing in a run.
But Morris struck out Alex Presley to bring the odd night to an end.