White Sox discover yet another way to lose a game: Infield fly rule interference

The Chicago White Sox, owners of MLB's worst record, innovated on the science of losing yet again on Thursday. Though to be fair, they had some help from the umpires.

Down 8-6 against the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth inning when Andrew Benintendi came to the plate with two runners on base and one out. Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel managed to get him to hit a pop-up with a high fastball.

Benintendi was out before the ball landed in shortstop Gunnar Henderson's glove via the infield fly rule, which should have been the second out for the White Sox. It wound up being the third as well, when baserunner Andrew Vaughn was called out for interference.

Interference, on an infield fly.

Both White Sox manager Pedro Grifol and the White Sox broadcasters had some harsh words for the decision:

Replay didn't really help explain what the umpire saw. Vaughn can be seen looking up at the pop fly and slowly shuffling back to second base, with his back turned to Henderson the entire time. Henderson has to take a step to the right to avoid running into an unaware Vaughn, but still reaches the ball's destination with multiple seconds to spare.

Vaughn was confused after the game:

"So I was reading the play. Saw the pop-up. Knew it was an infield fly. Read it and started to shuffle back and then he kind of breezed by me on the right side. He went and made the play, and then the umpire called me out.

"I didn't feel like he was deterred from making the play. It was a high pop-up, we were all reading it ... My back's turned to the shortstop, I don't know where he's at."

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 23: Pedro Grifol (5) of the Chicago White Sox argues with the umpires after a pop out by Andrew Benintendi (23) of the Chicago White Sox is called an unassisted double play after interference by Andrew Vaughn (25) of the Chicago White Sox after a game against the Baltimore Orioles on May 23, 2024 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
White Sox manager Pedro Grifol needed an explanation from the umpires on this one. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Crew chief Adrian Johnson tried to explain the decision to a pool reporter after the game:

"The ball was hit and infield fly was ruled on the play. [third base umpire] Junior [Valentine] came in with interference on Andrew Vaughn, the runner on second base. Actually the shortstop made contact with him, so with the interference, that's an out. And you still have the infield fly, and that's an out also.

"There doesn't have to actually even be contact. If he hinders the fielder in the attempt to field a batted ball, intent is not required and it's interference."

In course you're wondering where Johnson is coming from, here are the relevant sections of the MLB rulebook about what constitutes interference and if an infield fly is a dead ball:

"Rule 6.01(a) Penalty for Interference Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not."

And later:

"[An infield fly] is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul."

MLB wound up disagreeing with the umpires, though. Per ESPN's Jesse Rogers, the league reached out to the White Sox and admitted the interference call shouldn't have been made.

However they got there, it's another loss for the White Sox, who now sit at 15-36 in a season with few expectations.