The pitch barely brushed Scott Rolen, so lightly that he wasn’t even sure what it hit. Might have been his foreman, or maybe just his jersey.
Either way, Rolen knew the pitch from Mets starter Mike Pelfrey had grazed him with the bases loaded and the Reds should have the go-ahead run crossing the plate.
"I knew something wasn’t right,” Rolen said, "when nobody was advancing.”
That’s because plate umpire Jerry Meals had called Rolen out on strikes, believing the ball tipped his bat in the fifth inning of the Reds’ 8-6 victory Monday night. Rolen immediately began to argue and Reds manager Dusty Baker came out to join him, forcing the umpires to step away for a moment and discuss a critical play in a tied game.
They ended up getting it right. The decision was overturned and Rolen was awarded first base, and the Reds scored the first of six runs that broke open the game.
"The easy call would have been to keep it the same, but we’re not looking for the easy call, we’re looking to get it right,” crew chief Dale Scott said. "In this case, it was the correct call. Not the popular call, but the correct one.”
Drew Stubbs and Corky Miller each drove in a pair of runs after the call was overturned, while rookie pitcher Travis Wood added a run-scoring triple for Cincinnati. Joey Votto hit home runs in the first and sixth innings to provide even more support.
"My home runs wouldn’t have meant anything,” Votto said, "if we didn’t get the win.”
Angel Pagan hit a solo homer and Alex Cora added a pair of RBI for the Mets, who scored five runs of their own in the fifth inning, but could never draw even.
Jordan Smith (2-1) pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief before turning it over to All-Star reliever Arthur Rhodes, and Francisco Cordero got some help from a couple nifty catches by his defense to survive the ninth and earn his 23rd save.
The ease with which the Reds bullpen shut down New York the final four innings stood in stark contrast to the struggles Wood and Pelfrey (10-3) had during that eventful fifth inning, which left most of the Citi Field crowd in an uproar.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel included.
Manuel sprinted onto the field after the call was overturned, pleading his side of the case. It took umpire Dan Iassogna only a couple of seconds to toss him.
"This is a game. The human element is part of it, and that’s what makes it so beautiful,” Manuel said afterward. "That’s part of the game.”
The play was similar to one involving the same umpiring crew over the weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Alex Gonzalez of the Blue Jays was hit by a pitch from Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, but plate umpire Mark Wegner – who worked first base Monday night – called it a foul ball. Wegner convened with Iassogna and Scott to discuss the play, but there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the original call.
Gonzalez struck out on the next pitch, but wound up winning the game in the 11th inning.
"That one we knew it did hit the bat. It hit the barrel of the bat, but we couldn’t tell if it hit the player,” Iassogna said. "That’s where that situation was different.”
The Mets nearly made the call Monday night moot as well.
Pagan homered to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and David Wright’s triple gave New York some momentum. Ike Davis laid down an RBI bunt, Jeff Francoeur walked and Rod Barajas followed with an RBI single. Cora then made it 7-6 with a double to right field before Smith finally got the Reds out of the inning.
Votto gave his bullpen another run to work with in the sixth – not that it needed any help – before adding a double in the ninth inning.
He also gave fans something to think about as they cast their vote for the final spot on the NL All-Star roster. Votto’s among five candidates on the online ballot.
NOTES: The Mets put infielder Fernando Tatis (sprained right shoulder) on the DL and recalled LHP Raul Valdes from Triple-A Buffalo. … Wood made his second career start on short notice. The Reds scratched RHP Aaron Harang (lower back soreness) about 30 minutes before the first pitch. … U.S. soccer star Jozy Altidore was among the crowd at Citi Field.