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Umpire's blown call with two outs in ninth costs Tigers' Armando Galarraga a perfect game

Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga beats Jason Donald to first with two outs in ninth, but umpire Jim Joyce blows the call.

Associated Press

Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga beats Jason Donald to first with two outs in ninth, but umpire Jim Joyce blows the call.

DETROIT — Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate the first perfect game in Tigers history.

What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season, likely longer.

Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called the Indians' Jason Donald safe and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park.

Then Joyce emphatically said he was wrong.

"It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it," Joyce, 54, said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires' locker room after Detroit's 3-0 win. "I just cost that kid a perfect game.

"I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."

The call is almost certain to prompt a push for Major League Baseball to use increased replays. MLB declined comment.

As it stands, baseball replays can be used only for questionable home runs. There's no appealing a judgment call, either by replay or protest. A blown call by first-base umpire Don Denkinger in Game 6 helped tilt the 1985 Royals-Cardinals World Series and followed him throughout his career.

"I worked with Don Denkinger. I know what he went through, but I had never had a moment like this until tonight," said Joyce, who became a full-time major-league umpire in 1989 and has worked two World Series, 11 other playoff series and two All-Star Games.

Galarraga said Joyce apologized to him for getting it wrong.

"He probably feels more bad than me," Galarraga said. "Nobody's perfect. Everybody's human. I understand. I give the guy a lot of credit for saying, 'I need to talk to you.' You don't see an umpire tell you that after a game. I gave him a hug."

Galarraga said he didn't know how to react when he heard the initial call.

"I was in shock," he said. "I was nervous, angry, happy — so many feelings together. I didn't know how to react."

Galarraga was trying for the third perfect game in the majors this year, including Roy Halladay's gem Saturday night.

On a play teams work on early and often in spring training, Galarraga and first baseman Miguel Cabrera did their jobs on what should've been the final out.

Donald hit a grounder in the hole between first and second, and Cabrera fielded it and threw to first, where Galarraga caught the ball at least a step ahead of Donald, replays showed.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately charged out to argue, to no avail. The next batter grounded out, and Leyland and many of his players angrily let Joyce know how they felt.

"Emotions were running high for everybody and I think that's why the guys were emotional after the game," Leyland said. "I wish we wouldn't have been, but we were. But I think it's understandable in that case. That's a pretty sacred thing, something like that."

Cabrera said he didn't want to talk about it, and Donald answered questions after a long soak in the tub.

"I didn't know if I beat the throw or not," Donald said. "But given the circumstances, I thought for sure I'd be called out."

The Tigers huddled around one of the two big-screen TVs in their clubhouse, standing stoically and silently as the call was shown over and over.

"I know I played in a perfect game," Detroit shortstop Ramon Santiago said. "In my mind, on June 2, Armando Galarraga threw a no-hitter. I'm going to get a ball signed by him."

Galarraga was in complete control throughout the night. Then Donald's ground ball became the flash point of the night, and perhaps the season.

First, centerfielder Austin Jackson made a spectacular catch on Mark Grudzielanek's leadoff fly in the ninth.

"You just don't make a better catch than that," Leyland said.

Mike Redmond then grounded out and Donald came up with two outs. After Joyce's call, Galarraga quietly went back to work as the crowd started to boo. Cabrera continued to argue as Galarraga quickly retired Trevor Crowe for the one-hit shutout.

"I don't blame them a bit or anything that was said," Joyce said. "I would've said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would've been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me."

Halladay pitched a perfect game for the Phillies at Florida, and the Athletics' Dallas Braden did it to the Rays on May 9. Until then, there had never been two perfect games in the same season in the modern era.

Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a more conventional no-hitter, at Atlanta on April 17.

Galarraga struck out three and walked none and was a most unlikely star. He was recalled from Triple-A Toledo on May 16 after pitching poorly during spring training, losing out in a competition for the final spot in the rotation to Dontrelle Willis, who was traded Tuesday, and Nate Robertson, who was dealt to the Marlins before the team broke camp.

The Venezuela native, 28, had success in 2008, going 13-7, but he had done nothing quite like his masterful performance against the Indians.

Umpire's blown call with two outs in ninth costs Tigers' Armando Galarraga a perfect game 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 1:15am]

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