MILWAUKEE — Instant replay in Major League Baseball has created its fair share of bizarre moments this season, as everyone involved with the game tries to get used to the quirks the system brings with it.
Never before has a game at Miller Park ended the way the one between the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants did Tuesday night.
A near-sellout crowd of 40,465 spent just over three minutes watching numerous different angles of a close play at first base, screaming ‘OUT!’ after every one. Meanwhile, the Brewers were stuck on the field watching the replays on the scoreboard, as were the two Giants baserunners.
Then there was Francisco Rodriguez. Milwaukee’s closer was left to try and stay loose during the delay, as he was either going to head to the dugout with his 33rd save or have to face Brandon Belt with the tying run at second base.
Originally called safe by first-base umpire Hal Gibson, Joe Panik became the final out of Milwaukee’s 4-3 victory over San Francisco at Miller Park when crew chief Tom Hallion emerged from his headset with his fist in the air, overturning the call. The replay took three minutes, 17 seconds.
"A lot of things go through your head," Rodriguez said. "Are they going to change it or not? I was trying to block it out and get some warmup tosses to try to reset the button and make sure to get ready for the next guy, if they didn’t change it. That’s pretty much what I was thinking at that time. Just block it out and worry about the next guy coming up.
"It was bang-bang. It was really, really close. But in the end they got it right, which is the thing that matters the most."
Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning before issuing a two-out walk to Hunter Pence. On a 1-1 fastball, Panik hit a slow chopper which forced second baseman Rickie Weeks almost directly into the path of Pence.
Weeks avoided the runner but double clutched, making the play close. After Gibson ruled Panik safe, first baseman Mark Reynolds immediately signaled to the dugout for a challenge.
"I was kind of in between the runner and trying to get the ball at the same time," Weeks said. "I just threw it real quick and looked away. But we saw the replay, and he was out."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke didn’t waste much time before issuing his 18th challenge of the season. Although he was confident Panik was out on the play, Milwaukee’s skipper has seen plenty of calls as definitive as that one upheld by replay.
"I thought he was definitely out but with replay, you can’t see everything clearly, you don’t make the call," Roenicke said. "They got the call right; he was out. But you couldn’t see, in slow motion, his foot touching the bag when the ball was in the glove but you could see in one of the angles that he was out."
Milwaukee held a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning thanks in large part to left fielder Gerardo Parra. Making his debut at Miller Park as a member of the Brewers, Parra’s first hit with his new team broke a 3-all tie with a solo home run off Giants reliever Jean Machi in the seventh inning.
A half inning later, Parra made a fantastic diving catch in foul territory down the left-field line for the second out of the eighth. The play was particularly big because reliever Jeremy Jeffress was struggling to throw strikes, and San Francisco already had two runners on.
"To make a homer, that’s perfect," Parra said. "But I think the catch is better. The catch was big because there was first and second and one out. When I catch the ball, everybody feels better and JJ can feel more comfortable on the mound."
The call being overturned avoided Rodriguez having to face Belt with two on and two outs in a 4-3 game. With a fast runner in Pence at second base, a hit more than likely would have tied the game. That’s not to mention Rodriguez having to mentally regroup and get locked in again after thinking he had the game won.
In the end, none of that mattered. Instead, the Brewers kept their one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Cardinals rallied for two runs late Tuesday to beat the Boston Red Sox, but Pittsburgh blew a late lead and fell to Miami.
"Weird way, but it’s a win and that’s all that matters," Weeks said.