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Braves-Red Sox ends on automatic strike 3 from pitch clock violation

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It took all of two days for the pitch clock to directly affect the outcome of a Major League Baseball game.

Saturday's Grapefruit League contest between the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox featured a chaotic ending that was the first of its kind in MLB history. Batting with the bases loaded and a full count in the bottom of the ninth of a 6-6 game, Braves second baseman Cal Conley was assessed an automatic strike after taking too long to get set in the batter's box. The call resulted in a game-ending pitch-clock violation strikeout.

The new pitch-clock rules require batters to be in the box and engaged with the pitcher with eight seconds remaining on the timer. If the umpire deems they aren't ready, an automatic strike can be assessed. Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw the pitch with the bases empty, or 20 seconds with runners on base, before an automatic ball is called.

Conley, who undoubtedly has experience hitting with the pitch clock in the minor leagues, wasn't pleased with the umpire's ruling.

"The umpire said I was looking down. I was looking down at the catcher as he was standing up," Conley said postgame, according to Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Not really sure if the pitcher was ready to go, (but) catcher (Elih Marrero) definitely wasn't."

The pitch-clock rule states that the catcher must be in the catching box - either standing or crouched - with nine seconds remaining on the clock, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan, who adds an MLB spokesman said the correct call was made.

Braves manager Brian Snitker saw it as a teachable moment for everyone as they continue getting used to the new rules.

"You've got to forget about (what the catcher's doing), you better be attentive to the pitcher, like the rule says," Snitker said, per David O'Brien of The Athletic. "And that's distracting. That's something, heck, we might try it. ... I don't think they were intentionally trying to do it, but it worked."

However, the skipper added, "I don't think this (rule) was intended for a game to end like that."

Friday's spring action featured the first use of the pitch clock, among other new rules, in a game between MLB teams. San Diego Padres star Manny Machado was assessed the first auto strike in big-league history during his first at-bat of the spring.

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