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Actually, even when he charged Ryan, Ventura was Quakerish about it. He got halfway to the mound and then slowed up, hesitant about what to do next. Ryan seized the opportunity, and Ventura's neck. He thumped the third baseman harmlessly three times in the top of his skull before landing one punch in his face.
Ventura's target yesterday was the game's hero for the Giants—experimental rule 7.13.
The White Sox were leading 1-0 in the seventh inning of a game in San Francisco. The Giants' Gregor Blanco tried to score from third on a tap to first baseman Jose Abreu, but Abreu's throw to catcher Tyler Flowers beat Blanco by plenty, and Flowers tagged him out.
That's when 7.13 entered the game. Baseball adopted the rule over the winter to cut down on collisions at the plate. It stipulates that a runner who goes out of his way to knock over a catcher will be called out. But unless the catcher has the ball, he "cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy challenged the call. Replays showed that Flowers had indeed violated the rule—he was blocking the plate before he got the ball from Abreu. The replays also showed that Blanco was out by so much that the blocking of the plate was immaterial.
After a review that lasted nearly five minutes, the "out" call was reversed.
The normally unflappable Ventura rushed from the dugout and got in the face of Fieldin Culbreth, chief of the umpiring crew. But Ventura knew the reversal had been made by umpires in New York, not Culbreth. So he soon strode past the crew chief to home plate and commenced kicking dirt over it. (For readers new to baseball, this is a time-honored managerial practice, akin to dogs marking their territory.)
It was good to see that Ventura's ankle is still healthy. In a Sox spring training game in Sarasota, Florida, in March of 1997, he caught his spikes in the dirt as he was sliding home, snapping his lower right leg. He broke his tibia and fibula, and tore ligaments in the ankle. The injury eventually forced his retirement, and he needed a cane to walk until he had a rare ankle transplant surgery in 2005. Yesterday he relied mainly on the right leg in his onslaught of the plate, and he walked away without limping.
When Ventura was done kicking, Culbreth booted him from the game. That spared the Sox skipper from directly witnessing the rest of the inning. For although 7.13 cracked the door for the Giants, reliever Ronald Belisario shoved it open the rest of the way. Belisario this season has blocked the pathway of few runners attempting to score. He was summoned to replace starter Jose Quintana with the game still tied at one. Seven pitches and three singles later, he departed with the Giants up 5-1.
And still the inning wasn't over. The Giants didn't need any more insurance, but the Sox defense provided it just in case. With two runners on and two out, Pablo Sandoval lifted a fly between center fielder Leury Garcia and right fielder Adam Dunn. It was an interleague game, so in order to get Dunn's bat in the lineup, Ventura had risked putting him in the field.
As the fly descended, Garcia and Dunn became confused over whose responsibility it was to drop it. Ordinarily the center fielder takes charge. But Garcia is five foot eight and 170 pounds, Dunn is six foot six, 285, and no rule protects outfielders from collisions. As Dunn lumbered toward him, Garcia politely relinquished the honors. The ball nicked Dunn's glove and bounded away for an impressive three-base error, with two more runs crossing the dusty plate. Final: Giants 7, Sox 1. Dunn's glove is day to day.
"We got hosed," Ventura said after the game.