When this series with Oakland began, I wrote that umpire Angel Hernandez was arguably the second worst umpire in the game behind C.C. Bucknor. Tonight, the crew chief was at second base. Three nights ago he did the Tribe a favor when he didn’t toss Oakland starter Jarrod Parker for throwing at the head of Mark Reynolds after giving up two homers earlier in the inning. If he had, we would have been robbed of the Reynolds revenge blast in the 7-3 Indians win. Last night, Hernandez may have topped himself.
I always like to begin my recaps start to finish, but in this case, I have to make an exception.
With the Indians nursing a 4-3 lead with two outs in the ninth inning, closer Chris Perez looked like he was on the verge of closing out another win. The usually light-hitting Adam Rosales took a 1-1 Perez pitch deep to left center, which looked to hit high off the wall for a double. At closer glance, it was thought to bounce off the railing above the yellow line on the high wall in left. Hernandez was the closest umpire to the action. A conference of the umpires was called after A’s manager Bob Melvin came out to argue that the ball should be ruled a home run.
“Off the bat, I thought it was a homer,” said Perez. “He hit it pretty good. It sounded like a homer. But then it came down, and I thought we had some life. They went and reviewed it. The longer [the review] went, the more I thought, ‘All right. They’re going to say it’s a homer.’”
The initial Sportstime Ohio replays were far away and you really could not tell where the ball hit. The final replay was a digitally enhanced zoom, which clearly showed the ball hit the railing. Everyone watching on TV or in the press box could see it was a home run and the game should have been tied. After three minutes, the umpires emerged from their replay hole and told Rosales to stay at second. The ruling on the field stood. Tribe radio play by play man Tom Hamilton said it best: “Angel Hernandez got it wrong and that’s not really a surprise.”
Said Rosales after the game: “You saw it. Everybody saw it. I think everybody thought it was a home run except for the umpires.”
Melvin came rushing out of the dugout and was ejected. MLB rules state that once a decision is made final, a manager can no longer argue or else they are subject to immediate ejection. Melvin got screwed and he knew it, so he had to get his money’s worth.
“Inconclusive,” said Melvin when asked about the missed call that went against his team. “to only the four people in the ballpark that could say its inconclusive. Everybody else said it was a home run, including their announcers when I came in here (the clubhouse) later. I don’t get it.”
He went on.
“I went in and looked at it later, CLEARLY it hit the railing behind…I’m at a loss, completely. ”
MLB rarely makes its umpires available to the media after the game, but Hernandez spoke to a pool reporter after the game.
“It wasn’t evident on the TV we had it was a home run. I don’t know what kind of replay you had, but you can’t reverse a call unless there is 100 percent evidence and there wasn’t 100 percent evidence.”
Look, these are the breaks our teams never seem to get. So why not take advantage of it and enjoy? Perez still had to get one more out and seemed a tad flustered. He hit Eric Sogard with a pitch and then walked John Jaso to load the bases. It came down to Seth Smith. Perez jumped ahead with a strike before getting Smith on a comebacker to end the game. CP breathed a huge sigh of relief as he finished off the 4-3 win and his fifth save, his second in as many nights.
The story of the night started off as a solid pitchers duel between the Tribe’s Justin Masterson and Oakland’s A.J. Griffin. Both put up zeroes for the first three innings, with Masterson striking out four while not allowing a hit. But in the fourth, the A’s singled four times and with the help of a Masterson wild pitch, scored three runs. It was almost as if the first three innings were the equivalent of Masterson’s first three starts where he was close to perfect, and then in the fourth, he turned into the guy who was lit up in his next four starts for 18 runs in 25 innings.
However, the fourth inning turned out to be Masterson’s blip, as he manned up and put it all behind him. Over the next three innings, the Big Nasty stifled the A’s. He blew through the order without allowing a hit, the only base runner coming on a two out, fifth inning walk to Jed Lowrie. He would finish with seven strikeouts. Justin settling down allowed the offense to make their move.
“Masterson came out with a really explosive fastball,” manager Terry Francona said. “In the third and fourth innings, he fell behind in the count, and they were getting pretty aggressive in fastball counts. To his credit, they squared up some balls, but they were all down. A single to left. A single up the middle. A base hit to right. They were all singles.
“And then, once we clawed our way back in, he really dialed it way back in.”
In the fifth, they had a huge chance to get back into the game. Carlos Santana and Ryan Raburn led off the frame with walks. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall had Griffin shatter his bat but legged out an infield single to load the bases. Unfortunately, Drew Stubbs ground ball to third forced Santana at home for the key first out. Griffin looked as if he would get out of this jam unscathed as Michael Brantley hit a double play ball to Sogard at second. He flipped it to Rosales at second who fired to first to get the speedy Brantley, except his throw was short and in the dirt. An out-stretched Daric Barton couldn’t make the scoop and the ball got past first base. Raburn and Chisenhall both scored unearned, gift runs that changed the course of the game.
The offense had knocked on Griffin’s door in the fifth, but in the sixth, they would kick it in like they were Charles Ramsey. With one out, Nick Swisher tied the game with a solo shot. Not only did Swish do the “O-H” as he touched home plate, but as the in-house DJ played “Apache,” the Tribe’s class clown did the Apache dance in the dugout. The entire sequence was epic. Two batters later, Carlos Santana put the Tribe on top for the first time with a solo blast of his own. It was Santana’s seventh homer of the season. Swisher and Santana’s pair of bombs were the 10th time this season the Indians have hit two in the same inning. In 2012, they did it only nine times!
Somewhere in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN’s Manny Acta was shaking his head.
With Vinnie Pestano on the DL, Joe Smith is manning the eighth inning for Francona. He danced around a Smith leadoff single to keep the A’s off the board, setting the stage for Perez in the ninth. Little did we know how this one would end up turning out. But, as a wise man once said, “sometimes its better to be lucky than good.”
The Indians now head into tomorrow afternoon’s series finale looking for a four-game sweep. They have won nine of ten and 12 of 16. The 12:05 affair will feature left-hander Scott Kazmir (1-1, 6.28 ERA) looking for his third straight strong outing for the Tribe. He will meet up with former Indian ace, the ageless Bartolo Colon (3-1, 3.62 ERA).
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)