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Buck Showalter (probably) let baseball's first illegal lineup re-entry slide for a simple reason

On Aug. 25, the Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox, 16-3, at Fenway Park. The Red Sox allowed 21 hits, committed five errors and, maybe most amazingly, couldn’t solve Jeremy Hellickson. They also sent five players to the mound just one night after using five pitchers in a 13-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians. (Only reliever Blaine Boyer appeared in both for Boston.)

Largely overlooked until Wednesday, however, was a weird bit of baseball trivia: The game, as Baseball Prospectus’ Meg Rowley noted, featured “the only instance of illegal lineup re-entry in MLB history.” In the top of the ninth inning, the Red Sox moved first baseman Mitch Moreland to the mound as an emergency pitcher, and Hanley Ramírez came in as his replacement. Ramírez entered the game hitting in the No. 7 hole for designated hitter Chris Young — with Moreland’s new assignment, the Red Sox had forfeited their DH.

After Moreland pitched a scoreless frame, Boston came up to bat. Rafael Devers, hitting sixth in the lineup, lined out to center field. Ramírez was due up next. Only Young followed Devers to the plate, as he had all night. Young singled, and the game ended a little later with an illegal substitution stranded on second base.

No one on the Orioles raised a fuss. The game by then was essentially over, and well over three hours long. But that doesn’t mean manager Buck Showalter wasn’t wise to the game’s goings-on. In Rowley’s rewatch of the New England Sports Network broadcast, she noticed Showalter conferring with the umpires after the game in the dugout.

“Buck knew, and he wanted to make sure that in a game that mattered it wouldn’t happen again, but he also granted the Red Sox this little bit of grace,” she wrote. “It wasn’t a costly bit of grace, as the Orioles had effectively won already, but it was grace nonetheless. This might be the best managerial decision of the year. Buck knew the rules, but also knew that sometimes the rules just aren’t that important when presented with the opportunity to get to sleep 10 minutes earlier.”

Over the next month-plus of the season, everything weird about the game receded. The Orioles never again scored double-digit runs. Hellickson’s quality start that night was his last of the season. Young, after a very bad 2017, became a free agent, unlikely to return to the Red Sox. And in October, Farrell was fired.

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