Blown calls and missed balls punctuate playoffs

Oct 11, 2009 - 2:42 AM By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer

Ron Gardenhire was still miffed about a fair ball ruled foul when the Minnesota Twins manager was asked whether Major League Baseball should extend the use of instant replay.

"I can't make that decision for them," he said. "We had six umpires out there. I think, right, six? Six umpires."

Now count the blown calls, missed balls and baserunning pratfalls this week. Oh, and a snowout.

Hardly a flying start to the postseason. More like Playoff Follies.

Matt Holliday dropping a fly ball in the twilight at Dodger Stadium. Brett Gardner and Carlos Gomez getting lost on the bags. A bunch of outfielders watching hits bounce past them.

Bad luck? Bad planning? Maybe a bit of postseason pressure?

"Because it is the playoffs, we pay more attention to it. It gets magnified and you see it over and over and over," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Saturday.

"Travel around 162 games and there's some things that make you scratch your head and shock you and surprise you and all that stuff. When it happens in the playoffs, it takes on so much more meaning. Even though we're in the game, when we see certain things happen, it just startles us somewhat. But I don't think it's any more unusual than during the season," he said.

With the World Series set to run into November, the mid-October weather intruded Saturday. Game 3 of the NL series between Philadelphia and Colorado at Coors Field was postponed because of snow and record low temperatures in the teens.

"In conditions like we have today, where you're playing a game and a very key member of either team gets hurt, it would really affect you into 2010," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Baseball's blizzard of misfortune started Tuesday during the AL Central tiebreaker between Detroit and Minnesota. In the top of the 12th, a pitch seemed to brush Brandon Inge's uniform with the bases loaded. There was no call, and the game stayed tied - the Twins won in the bottom half.

"The ball looked like it might have hit Brandon's jersey - that was a run. That game could have went that way, so breaks are part of it," Gardenhire said Saturday during an off-day with his Twins down 0-2 to the New York Yankees. "It went against us this time."

Umpires appeared to miss a few more calls on the bases in games at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

The play that irked Gardenhire occurred in the 11th inning Friday night at Yankee Stadium. AL batting champ Joe Mauer led off with a fly ball down the left-field line that appeared to hit Melky Cabrera's glove. The ball clearly bounced a foot in fair territory and hopped into the stands.

Left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi called it foul, rather than a double. Mauer wound up singling, and the Twins loaded the bases with no outs but didn't score. Mark Teixeira hit a leadoff homer in the 11th and the Yankees won 4-3.

After the game, umpire crew chief Tim Tschida acknowledged it was the wrong call.

"There's a guy sitting over in the umpire's dressing room right now that feels horrible," he said.

Following a World Series in which a couple of calls were missed, some want baseball to take a further look at replay. As it stands, umpires can turn to replay only when potential home runs are involved - did the ball clear the wall, was it fair or foul?

There's no provision for plays such as Mauer's ball. Complicating the mix is the six-man crew that baseball employs in the postseason.

"The challenges in working foul line: No. 1 is we don't do it a lot. It's a tough one to practice," Tschida said. "Your first movement is always to get out of the way because we're not accustomed to having fielders come from the side. ... So getting into a position is a little bit foreign. It's a little bit uncomfortable, and I don't offer that as an excuse for an incorrect decision, but it can contribute to the call becoming a little more difficult."

Torre could see baseball taking an extra look at replay.

"The fair-foul thing I think could be expanded," he said. "For plays where maybe umpires are blocked out, they're human."

"Am I saying they're making more wrong calls now than they did years and years ago? I think we have more ways to scrutinize and look at it now than we did then, so I can't say that. In terms of last night where he may have been blocked by the call, something like that it may be the future," he said.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa isn't complaining.

"I think the first thing I ever said was that the absence of replays would not bother me. I've been around too long," he said. "Part of the game is umpires making their best calls. I mean, you watch us play, you watch me manage, nobody's perfect."


AP Sports Writers R.B. Fallstrom and Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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