SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate, and it wasn't particularly close. He squinted as he looked back at a scoreboard that had the Giants still down by a run. It felt like another one of those disappointing days the Giants have had so many of this summer.
And then a teammate got Blanco's attention.
"I heard that he might have been blocking the plate," Blanco said of White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers.
Welcome to baseball in 2014.
Replay confirmed the suspicion, awarding Blanco the first of seven runs the Giants would score in a strange and decisive inning in a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. No manager pushed harder for changes to home-plate collision rules than Bruce Bochy, and while this wasn't how he or MLB drew it up, he wasn't going to apologize, either.
"It's a rule. I know this rule has created a lot of controversy, and they've talked about reviewing this at the end of the season and maybe tweaking it, but it is a rule," Bochy said. "You can't block the plate without the ball. It is what it is. We'll take it."
Down the hallway at AT&T Park, White Sox manager Robin Ventura had a different reaction.
"You look at the spirit of the rule of what they're trying to do and what it's actually doing, and it's a joke," said Ventura, who was ejected for arguing and kicking dirt on the plate after a review that lasted nearly five minutes. "We obviously disagreed with it, and we got hosed today."
The play came with one out and runners on the corners in the seventh inning. The Giants, losers of five straight, trailed 1-0 on an Adam Dunn blast into McCovey Cove. Joe Panik hit a broken-bat grounder to first baseman Jose Abreu, who made a strong throw home. Flowers had set up with his left foot between Blanco and the plate, a violation of Rule 7.13, enacted in spring training. Part of that rule states the catcher "may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball."
Flowers said he understands why MLB is trying to protect catchers. The play happened at the same spot where Buster Posey got run over, ending his 2011 season. But the White Sox catcher thinks the new rule lacks context.
"I don't think anybody has an understanding of this rule," Flowers said. "That's not the purpose of this rule. The purpose of this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It's not when a guy is out by 30 feet. 'Oh, he blocked the plate?' That had no impact on him being safe or out. And there's no clarification on that."
The White Sox were further incensed because there had been a similar play Tuesday night, and Ventura had asked for a challenge. That play was not overturned, as Posey on Tuesday set up about a foot farther in front of the plate than Flowers did Wednesday.
"I had two seconds to get from behind home plate to catch (and) make a tag, and I'm supposed to be able to make sure I don't block the plate, catch the ball and make the tag, all within two seconds on an infield dribbler?" Flowers said. "That's not realistic. That play doesn't make any sense."
As the White Sox fumed, the Giants hardened their resolve. The play in itself didn't decide the game. The Giants still had to take advantage of the break, and they did. Joaquin Arias (hitting just .196) was walked with two outs. Angel Pagan broke the tie with a two-run single. Hunter Pence and Posey followed with RBI singles, and Pablo Sandoval hit a fly ball to center that burly right fielder Dunn dropped after inexplicably calling off his center fielder. The Giants scored seven runs, their highest total in an inning at AT&T Park since Game 2 of the 2010 World Series.
"It just got contagious," Bochy said. "When your offense is struggling, you need your breaks somewhere -- a bad hop, a blooper that falls in, anything to loosen them up and take some pressure off of them."
The rally finally put Jake Peavy back in the win column. The right-hander had lost 12 consecutive decisions and had not won a game on U.S. soil since last Sept. 25. His only previous win this season came April 25 in Toronto when he was pitching for the Boston Red Sox.
"You know, everything has an expiration date," Peavy said of his losing streak.
The same could be said of the current home-plate collision rule. It's likely to stay in some form, because protecting players remains of vital importance. But the anticipation is that changes will be made. Wednesday's game wasn't the only one this season to involve a controversial ruling on a play that wasn't close.
"That's going to be discussed at the end of the season," Bochy said. "Is it perfect? No. Does it need to be tweaked? Yeah, I think it does. But we've had some tough calls. It's nice to get one to go our way.
"The rule is you can't block home plate without the ball. It's right there, and he was doing that."
(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services