Originally written April 22, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
DETROIT -- Yes, the umpires blew a call in the 11th inning of Detroit's 3-2 loss to Texas on Sunday. No one disputes that, including the umpires. That said, it probably didn't cost the Tigers the game. With the score tied after 10 innings, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was forced to use Thad Weber in relief. Weber was making his major-league debut and facing baseball's best offense. Texas immediately loaded the bases on a walk and two singles, bringing Alberto Gonzalez to the plate. On the first pitch, Gonzalez bunted the ball toward the mound for a suicide squeeze. With no chance to get the runner at the plate, Weber turned to throw to first, but Miguel Cabrera had charged the bunt and couldn't get back to the bag in time. That put Texas ahead 3-2, and they still had the bases loaded with no one out, but there was a problem. Several Tigers, including Leyland, had seen the bunt hit Gonzalez's knee before bouncing off the dirt and into fair territory. Since Gonzalez was still in the batter's box, the correct call would have been a foul ball, leaving Gonzalez still at the plate with an 0-1 count. Leyland came out to argue the decision, and Welke brought his umpiring crew together to confer on the call. None of the other umpires had seen the ball hit Gonzalez, so the call stood. "I saw just what it did - the ball came down and hit him on the back knee," Leyland said. "Normally, someone sees that - one of the umpires sees it. For whatever reason, they didn't see it." After the game, though, Welke acknowledged that he had seen a replay and that the ball had clearly hit Gonzalez Gonzalez also confirmed that the ball had hit him. "It did," Welke said. "You can decide anything you want and deduce from that, but we didn't see the ball hit anyone on the field. We called what we saw, and we didn't see him get hit." Tigers catcher Alex Avila had a hard time blaming Welke for missing the call. "You can't expect him to see it, because I didn't see it," he said. "But that's why you have four umpires - so they can get it right." The call became more important when Weber got pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to ground into a 1-2-3 double play, then retired Kinsler to get out of the inning with only the one run having scored. Cabrera singled with two out in the bottom of the 11th, putting the tying run on base, but Joe Nathan got Prince Fielder to fly out to the wall in right, ending the game. The save was Nathan's 34th in 34 career tries against the Tigers. On paper, the umpiring mistake could have cost Detroit the game. If the ball is ruled foul, then Gonzalez hits into the double play and Moreland grounds out, the Tigers would at least have played into the 12th inning. Leyland, though, didn't see it that way. He focused more on the fact that Cabrera's 11th-inning single was the only baserunner the Tigers got in the final five innings. "It's too bad, but that happens," he said. "We didn't swing the bats, and to put this all on the umpires would be totally wrong." The controversial ending overshadowed an outstanding performance from rookie pitcher Drew Smyly. Making just his third career start, Smyly held Texas to one run in six innings, striking out seven. "I thought he did a terrific job holding down a team that been really hot," Leyland said. "He had the advantage that they hadn't seen him before, but he threw the ball well, and he kept them off-balance." Smyly has a 1.13 ERA in his three starts, changing the fifth-starter slot from an expected weakness into a strength. On the other hand, Detroit's offense has been surprisingly weak. In the last 10 games, the Tigers have scored 30 runs and are batting .210. "We didn't really muster any threats - it wasn't like we had the bases loaded or two guys on," Leyland said. "We just didn't do much offensive. Some of that is that they pitched real good, but some of it is that we're not swinging the bat real good right now." NOTES: Cabrera, who was unable to get back to first base in time to make a play on Gonzalez's squeeze bunt, was playing the position for the first time this season. Brandon Inge hit for Don Kelly in the bottom of the 10th, and then stayed in the game at third base, with Cabrera moving to first. Fielder, the usual first baseman, was the designated hitter. ... Smyly is the first Tigers pitcher since 1918 to allow zero or one runs in each of his first three starts.

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