Disputed squeeze bunt leads to Texas' win
Ball appears to hit Gonzalez as go-ahead run scores in 11th
DETROIT -- By the time Comerica Park had emptied Sunday afternoon after the Rangers' 3-2 win, those who had seen replays were generally in agreement that the 11th-inning bunt attempt that plated the deciding run was actually foul. The Tigers, who were on the short end of the call, refused to call foul over the way the decision unfolded.
All manager Jim Leyland could hope for is for the umpires to confer over their first ruling. Nobody saw Alberto Gonzalez's squeeze bunt definitively enough to change the initial ruling of a fair ball and base hit.
Leyland has had his share of disagreements with umpires over the years. He wasn't going to lose his head over this one, but he was clear over what he witnessed.
"I'm not going to get upset, if that's what you're trying to do, get me upset at the umpires," Leyland said. "You all saw it. You don't need a quote from me. You all saw it. I'm not going to sit here and blast the umpires. I'm not going to do that.
"You asked the question originally, what I saw: The ball hit him in the back knee. There's no question about that."
Home-plate umpire Tim Welke told a pool reporter he saw the replay after the game.
"It did [hit him]," Welke told the reporter.
The bunt in question happened after the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the 11th against Tigers reliever Thad Weber, making his Major League debut. With Alberto Gonzalez stepping to the plate, Texas manager Ron Washington called for the squeeze.
It was a risky play, even with no one out, because a popup and a double play could ruin the scoring opportunity. But it was also a play that would be difficult to guard against if executed well.
"We had the right guy up in the right situation," Washington said. "If I was going to do it, it was going to be right there. Get one run and still have runners at second and third, and a chance to get more runs."
Gonzalez bunted at the first pitch, a high offspeed pitch from Weber. Gonzalez got the bunt down in front of the plate and took off for first, reaching safely when no one was covering the bag for a throw. Miguel Cabrera, who shifted over to first base for the top of the inning, was charging in, as was Brandon Inge from third.
Inge said his immediate reaction was a foul ball.
"I saw it go down, and I heard a thud," Inge said. "And I know the difference between a thud and [hitting] the ground. And it kicked off different. My first reaction was, yeah, it hit. I thought it hit his foot. I knew it hit something, because I was close."
Gonzalez told reporters afterward that the ball did hit him.
"As soon as I hit it, I just kept running," Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to stay and see what [the umpire] says. I was going to run and see if the umpire called it."
Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who was in front of Welke on the bunt when he made his ruling, hadn't seen the replay. He wasn't certain based on what he saw behind the plate.
"I couldn't tell," Avila said. "I was trying to catch the ball and get in a position to get the guy out at the plate. I couldn't tell right away, which is probably why the home umpire couldn't tell, because at that point he's trying to watch the pitch and stuff like that. At the same time, that's what the other umpires were for. I haven't seen the replays or anything, though."
That was the challenge at game speed. Only a slow-motion replay from a side angle from the Rangers' dugout made it evident that the ball took a path off Gonzalez's right leg, then off the ground.
By rule, that would have resulted in a foul ball. When asked if the ball should have been foul, Welke said, "We did not see the ball hit anybody on the field. You can decide whatever you want and deduce from that.
"We called what we saw, and we didn't see him get hit."
Inge said he heard part of the umpires' conference.
"This is a pretty good crew," Inge said. "The thing is, it's hard doing what they do. I'm not going to say it's easy. And I understand they were going with inconclusive evidence."
Said Leyland: "That's fair enough. [Welke] did check, but nobody else saw it."
The play is not reviewable on instant replay. Leyland, coincidentally, serves on the special committee that makes recommendations on rules changes such as replay. However, Leyland said this won't change his mind on that.
"I think you can open up a can of worms with too much replay," Leyland said. "I mean, where do you stop it? ... To be honest with you, normally somebody sees that [live]. One of the umpires sees that normally, in fairness to them. For whatever reason, they just didn't see it."
When Washington was asked how he would've reacted to a reversal, he was frank.
"I probably would have lost my mind," Washington said. "I would have sprinted out of the dugout and lost my mind, then called and apologized if the replay showed it hit him."
A foul ball doesn't mean the Rangers wouldn't have taken the lead. It would've meant an 0-1 count, with the bases still loaded and one out in a 2-2 game. Nevertheless, it was the go-ahead run in a one-run game.
After umpires conferred and play resumed, Weber induced a double play and a third out to keep it a 3-2 game before Joe Nathan retired the Tigers in the bottom of the inning.