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A bad season for the Chicago White Sox turned a little controversial Thursday. The White Sox dropped their series opener with the Baltimore Orioles (BAL 8, CWS 6), which in and of itself isn't unusual. The Orioles are good, the White Sox are not. The result was as expected. What is unusual is the way the game ended, with an interference call that left even the O's confused.

Setting the scene: Baltimore took an 8-2 lead into the ninth inning, though Jonathan Heasley and Yennier Cano made a mess of things -- the first six White Sox players to bat reached base in the ninth -- and Chicago put four runs on the board. Craig Kimbrel entered with runners on first and second and one out. Andrew Benintendi represented the tying run at the plate.

Kimbrel got Benintendi to hit a pop up on the infield, and because there were two runners on base and two force outs in play, the infield fly rule was called. Textbook. What happened next is where it got weird: Andrew Vaughn, the runner at second, was ruled to have interfered with shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who caught the pop up and had no difficulty getting under it.

Vaughn was called out on the interference and that made it a game-ending double play. Here's the video. It is about as weak an interference call as you'll see:

MLB Rule 6.01 covers interference and says 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." By the letter of the law, Vaughn committed interference even though it wasn't intentional. It seems like a stretch to say he hindered Henderson, but the rule is the rule.

"So there doesn't have to actually even be contact," third base umpire Junior Valentine, who made the interference call, said after the game  (via MLB.com). "If he hinders the fielder in the attempt to field a batted ball, intent is not required and it's interference."  

According to ESPN, MLB reached out to the White Sox to say the umpires have discretion on such plays and interference did not have been called. Even O's manager Brandon Hyde admitted he was confused by the play and said "I felt like we escaped there" after the game. Here's what Vaughn had to say about the interference call (via MLB.com):

"They didn't tell me anything, actually. They just said I was out," Vaughn said. "I was reading the play, saw the popup, know it was an infield fly. Read it, started shuffling back and he kind of breezed by me on the right side. And then yeah, he made the play and the umpire called me out."


"He breezed by me. He uttered something like 'get out of the way' or something. And I was going back to the bag," Vaughn said. "I don't know where he's at. I don't know what other decision, I would like an answer to that."

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol acknowledged the call was correct. His issue is with the rule itself. "Their shortstop had plenty of time to catch the baseball ... He wasn't trying to impede Gunnar from catching the fly ball. He wasn't doing that. It has nothing to do with the way the umpires called the play. I just have an issue with the rule," Grifol said (via MLB.com).

Again, by the letter of the law, it's interference. Vaughn did hinder Henderson. At the same time, it's a pretty soft call. Henderson had more than enough time to camp under the pop up, which didn't even need to be caught because the batter is automatically out on the infield fly rule. Does this fit the spirit of the interference rule? Eh, maybe, but common sense says Henderson wasn't hindered.

Had the interference not been called, the White Sox would have had runners runners at first and second with two outs and rookie catcher Korey Lee at the plate against Kimbrel. Lee was 0 for 4 on the night, though his four home runs are third on the White Sox. The win improved the O's to 30-18. The White Sox have baseball's worst record at 15-36.