The check-swing has its reckoning with fateful blown call in NLDS

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By , Audacy Sports

With less than half a swing, the Giants' season came to a bitter end.

The controversial sequence unfolded with Dodgers ace Max Scherzer moonlighting in a rare relief appearance and looking to close out the rival Giants in the home half of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday night.

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With two out and a runner on first, San Francisco's Wilmer Flores fell into a 1-2 hole against Scherzer. The three-time Cy Young Award winner then offered up a nasty breaking ball, inducing a partial swing that Flores seemed to hold back.

But Scherzer and catcher Will Smith appealed to first-base umpire Game Morales, who promptly rung up Flores, ending the game and sending the Dodgers to the NLCS for a showdown with the Atlanta Braves.

The disputed call prompted debate on social media, while Giants coaches and players expressed doubts about the seemingly botched call. Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "disappointing" way to end a series.

While they are more than justified in questioning the call, the truth is there is no mention in MLB's 200-page rule book on how to decide it, according to the Associated Press. Officially, the call is at the discretion of the umpires.

The check-swing and appeal -- when the home-plate umpire signals to his colleague standing 90-plus feet away at either first or third base for an assist on the ruling -- are commonplace in modern baseball, but in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 of the NLDS, the rulebook felt dreadfully inadequate for parsing what was a game-ending call.

In the age of instant replay, it seems unavoidable that these potentially consequential situations should be subject to video review. Of course, the check-swing is a matter of balls and strikes, which to this point have been off the table in terms of review.

Video review is far from perfect. It breaks the rhythm of the game, and in some cases it's not even clear the right call has been made. But the check-swing -- particularly on strike three, particularly in the ninth inning or extras -- should be relatively painless to look at.

Recent years have marked the first early experiments with robot umpires calling balls and strikes -- including check-swings -- in the minor leagues, with decidedly mixed results.

In any event, whether a batter "broke his wrists" or his bat "passed the plane of the plate," the check-swing is yet another longstanding, ill-defined rule that needs clarifying, and should be subject to review in high-leverage situations.

The playoff format that pitted 107- and 106-win teams against each other in the NLDS arguably needs to be looked at. The flimsily defined rule that was invoked on the final play of their thrilling five-game series most certainly does.

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