Let’s be frank about one thing; a controversial home run call did not have a direct impact on the Baltimore Orioles losing to 3-1 to Tampa yesterday afternoon, their fifth straight loss. First off let’s review; Matt Joyce sent what appeared to the naked eye to be a foul ball into the RF corner. First base umpire Dan Iassogna ruled the ball fair and Joyce ended up at second base. Buck Showalter argued that it was a foul ball, followed by Joe Maddon who argued it was a homer. After approximately ten minutes of discussions back and forth amongst themselves and between the managers, the umpires decided to review the play. The verdict: home run.
Upon further review, the ball did hit off the side of the foul pole (which was painted black) and thus it was a homer. Most of the conversation post-game seemed to focus on why the base of the pole(s) was painted black as opposed to yellow. Furthermore, the goal is to get the call correct, and that’s what the umpiring crew did. HOWEVER, according to NBC Sports the play should have never gone to instant replay. If the play was not ruled a home run on the field, it cannot be reviewed (according to NBC).
Chris Tillman ended up taking the loss for the O’s, although he turned in his sixth consecutive quality start. Tillman’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Tillman had a moderately high pitch count at 111, however a lot of that was due to Tampa hitters fouling balls off left and right. Many people like to point out that the term “quality start” is a fairly broad one, however at the very least Tillman put the team in a position to win the game. At most he pitched a pretty decent game.
Tillman’s lone walk of the game came in the third inning when he walked Yunel Escobar on four straight pitches. Former Oriole and current MASN analyst Rick Dempsey always says that nothing good ever happens after a walk, and sure enough Desmond Jennings followed that up with an RBI-double to give Tampa a 1-0 lead. However Manny Machado led off the last of the fourth with a triple (due in part to a mis-communication between two Tampa outfielders), and he tied the game on Adam Jones‘ RBI-single. Jones would proceed to steal both second and third base before being stranded. So after the Orioles tied the game up they were haunted by a former teammate in Luke Scott, as he belted a homer to right field in the fifth, followed by Joyce’s controversial home run in the sixth.
For the most part, Tampa starter Matt Moore (the league’s only 8-0 pitcher) shut the Orioles down. That’s important to note because while the team is struggling right now, they’re also running into pitchers that are pitching their lights out. T.J. McFarland made a huge contribution to this game as he pitched 2.1 innings in relief of Tillman which probably saved a bullpen arm or two. Pedro Strop was also solid out of the pen (save for one walk) for the last two outs in the ninth inning. While Jim Johnson has effectively taken his spot as the apple of the fans’ ire at the moment, Strop has really figured some things out in the past two weeks or so.
But going back to that disputed home run call, the play was called correctly. The problem is that it shouldn’t have been allowed to go to instant replay, and Buck Showalter should have vehemently complained about that the moment the umpires went to the cameras. (And incidentally, regardless of the “reviewability” of the play, the ten minutes that it took the umpires to decide to look at it was equally as ridiculous.) With that said, Showalter had an opportunity to play the game under protest. According to MLB rule 4.19, “Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpires decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire.”
That rule also says that a replay of the game will not be ordered unless the infraction adversely affected the team’s chances of winning the game. One could argue that since the Orioles never scored another run in the game that lone call didn’t affect their chances of winning. After the game Showalter was quick to say that the umpires got the call right, and he’s correct in that. However the fact is that the rules were violated when the umpires reviewed the play, similar to the rules being violated when the umpires in the George Brett pine tar game called Brett out after his home run. That protest was upheld by then-AL President Lee MacPhail. This one might have been a bit more complex considering that the league would be forced to in effect reverse the correct call, however if they’re really going to go by the rule of law they’d have had no choice but to admit that the play couldn’t have been reviewed. Perhaps the most bizzare aspect of the entire episode is that had Showalter not gone out to argue (fair/foul), Maddon might not have argued for a home run. So in effect Buck Showalter protested a double into a home run for the other team. (That’s not said in an accusatory manner by any means, just a strange quirk of the game.)
The Orioles have their work cut out for them in breaking this five-game losing streak with the division-leading New York Yankees coming to town. NY of course was supposed to be back in the pack, but the guys in their lineup have been playing out of their minds and they have the team in first place. By virtue of a rain out yesterday against Toronto, the Orioles will end up seeing C.C. Sabathia tonight at the yard. Lucky them. The O’s will counter with former Yankee Freddy Garcia.