ST. PETERSBURG — In a Rays season filled with firsts, they became part of baseball history in a unique way Wednesday.
Instant replay, instituted just last week, was used for the first time in major-league baseball in the ninth inning of the Rays' 8-4 loss to the Yankees. And to all parties involved, the umpires handled it well, and in relatively quick fashion.
The play in question was an Alex Rodriguez two-out, two-run homer, which hit the D-ring catwalk in leftfield; it was called fair on the field and was supported through replay that it went directly over the foul pole.
But it did cause some anxious moments.
Rodriguez hit the towering fly ball off Troy Percival and waited in the batter's box until third-base umpire Brian Runge called it a fair ball. That sparked catcher Dioner Navarro to literally jump in and adamantly argue that it was foul. Manager Joe Maddon asked for clarification from home-plate umpire Greg Gibson, then Runge.
"I said, 'Here we go,' " Rodriguez said.
Crew chief Charlie Reliford met with his crew on the field and said they were unanimous that it was a home run, that "all four of us had it going right over the pole on the field." But Reliford said that since Maddon argued, and the technology was in place, they went to the tape.
Reliford headed to a designated room behind the Yankees dugout, where he watched "several" replays on a 19-inch Sharp flat-screen TV. To reverse a call, the crew chief has to decide there is "clear and convincing" evidence.
After convening for 2 minutes, 15 seconds, Reliford ruled that the ball went fair over the pole, and it didn't matter if it hit a catwalk after that.
"I couldn't tell," Maddon said. "Our pole is not high enough there. I thought Charlie did a great job with it. I don't know if it was fair or foul."
Maddon took out Percival after the ruling but said it had nothing to do with how long it took. Said Navarro: "Sometimes it takes even longer for a manager to get kicked out than it takes for them to use instant replay."
Instant replay is only to be used for "boundary" calls in determining whether balls are home runs — whether it went over the wall, was fair or foul, was interfered with by a fan, and, in the case of Tropicana Field, hit one of the two lowest catwalks.
Rodriguez, who said he had the best view, called the process "efficient."
"Obviously, they got the call right," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the important thing. I've said that all along."