Major League Baseball and umpire Jerry Meals agree Meals made the wrong call in Atlanta’s 4-3, 19-inning win over Pittsburgh early Wednesday morning.
Meals ruled Pittsburgh catcher Mike McKenry failed to tag Atlanta’s Julio Lugo in the bottom of the 19th, allowing Lugo to score the winning run. Replays showed McKenry clearly tagging Lugo before Lugo reached the plate.
The Pirates filed a formal complaint hours after the longest game in team history, and MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre said it appeared Meals missed the call.
Later Wednesday, Meals said he saw in his review of the play that Lugo’s pants moved slightly when tagged. Meals said that showed him he missed the call.
”After coming into the locker room, I reviewed the incident through our videos that we have in here and after seeing a few of them, on one particular replay, I was able to see that Lugo’s pant leg moved ever so slightly when the swipe tag was attempted by McKenry,” Meals said.
”That’s telling me that I was incorrect in my decision and that he should have been ruled out and not safe.”
Meals’ statement on Wednesday was stronger than his comment following the game that he ”might” have missed the call.
”You can watch that tape a hundred times and there’s no `might’ about what happened,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday.
Hurdle said he wanted the clear acknowledgement from Meals that he missed the call.
”I think that would be appropriate,” Hurdle said before Meals released his statement. ”It would be professional. It would be respectful. And then we could all move on.”
Hurdle spoke with Meals when lineup cards were exchanged at home plate before the game. The two shook hands, and Hurdle gave the umpire a pat on the back before returning to the Pirates’ dugout.
Torre said he spoke to Meals and ”no one feels worse than him.”
Pirates president Frank Coonelly said the organization was ”extremely disappointed” with the way the game ended, arguing both teams deserved better.
”While we cannot begin to understand how umpire Jerry Meals did not see the tag made by Michael McKenry three feet in front of home plate, we do not question the integrity of Mr. Meals,” Coonelly said. ”Instead, we know that Mr. Meals’ intention was to get the call right. Jerry Meals has been umpiring Major League games for 14 years and has always done so with integrity and professionalism. He got this one wrong.”
Though Torre lamented the error, he also said mistakes are part of the game.
”Most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires,” Torre said.
The loss was a costly one for the Pirates, searching for their first winning season in 19 years. In the thick of a surprising National League Central race with Milwaukee and St. Louis, the loss pushed the resurgent Pirates one game behind the first-place Cardinals.
”For Pirates fans, we may have lost a game in the standings as a result of a missed call,” Coonelly said, ”but this game, and the gutsy performances by so many of our players, will make us stronger, more unified and more determined as we continue the battle for the National League Central Division.”
With runners on the corners and one out in the 19th, Atlanta’s Scott Proctor hit a groundball off Pittsburgh’s Daniel McCutchen to third base. Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez fielded it and threw home to McKenry who appeared to apply the tag to Lugo in plenty of time.
Meals, however, called Lugo safe. Hurdle exploded from the dugout after the call, which put an abrupt end to the longest game in the organization’s history.
”You like to see the game finished by the players, win or lose,” Hurdle said afterward. ”For it to end like that is as disappointing as it gets in a game.”
McCutchen, who took the loss, was convinced McKenry made the play.
”Can I say that he was out? Is that legal?” McCutchen asked, adding he saw the tag.
”I didn’t know what everyone was screaming about,” he said.
McKenry said Wednesday he moved on after watching the replay.
”I watched it last night and then it was completely out of our control, my control,” McKenry said. ”I took a shower, it’s a new day.
”I knew what I felt. I felt like I tagged him.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was ejected by Meals earlier in the game for arguing Meals’ calls of balls and strikes, said he felt empathy for the umpire.
”It’s baseball,” Gonzalez said. ”It’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning. The man had the plate for six, almost seven hours.
”It’s a shame because Jerry Meals is a hell of an umpire.”