ST. LOUIS -- Clint Hurdle's seen a bunch of baseball over his lifetime, but he'd "never" seen a player voluntarily help an umpire overturn a call that would've helped his team ... until Starling Marte did so Tuesday night in the Pirates' 3-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
A Jack Flaherty fastball struck the knob of his bat and caromed downward. Bruce Dreckman, the home plate umpire, promptly pointed to first base, meaning he'd judged Marte to have been hit by the pitch.
Which he was:
That's when it got weird.
Before Marte had left the box, Dreckman turned toward Marte and asked if he'd been hit. Marte, strikingly, admitted he hadn't. And Dreckman, just as strikingly, reversed his call on the spot.
Hurdle emerged from the dugout.
"I asked him why he changed his mind," Hurdle explained. "He told me Marte told him the ball didn't hit him."
"Well, the ball didn't hit him. So, we can do whatever we want to do, and then they can replay ... it's inconsequential. It didn't hit him."
"He told me it didn't hit him," Dreckman confirmed to a St. Louis pool reporter.
The whole thing's nuts, right?
Eh. Maybe not.
I asked Marte about this, and he responded simply, "It didn't hit me."
And as I'd begun asking another question about that, he repeated, "It didn't hit me."
One of the team's coaches dug into this a little deeper for me a little later, laying out that umpires really hate when batters fake getting hit, just as officials do in any sport. And, as Hurdle mentioned, because the opposing team will inevitably challenge, they'll win the replay, anyway, and that batter's got to return to the box, pick up the bat and act like all his acting had never happened. Within that, since umpires have memories longer than Mensa-level elephants, they'll hold it against that batter for the foreseeable future.
Marte apparently had no wish to get on Dreckman's bad side, so he came clean.