ST. LOUIS — Cardinals rookie manager Mike Matheny was ejected for the second time this season when he argued an overturned triple play in the first inning of the home team’s eventual 10-7 win over the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium.
The controversy began when Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer lined a shot up the middle with runners at first and second and no outs in the top of the first. Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly snagged the liner, but it was unclear whether or not the ball hit the ground before it went into his glove.
None of the umpires immediately made a call either way, causing Kelly to throw to first base to get at least one out. When home plate umpire Kerwin Danley then appeared to make an out call at home plate in reference to the line drive, Kelly threw to second to double off the runner.
Second base umpire Dana DeMuth, the crew chief, signaled out at second and the Cardinals ran off the field thinking they had just turned a triple play. But after an argument from Royals manager Ned Yost, the umpires got together and decided that Hosmer’s ball had hit the ground and that the runners should be placed at second and third.
Matheny charged onto the field to plead his case before being ejected by Danley after a near-five minute argument. His argument was that Kelly could have gone for the double play had the play been ruled safe right away, and since Danley signaled out, that changed his plans.
“The problem was there was a call made in my mind at that time and that would have dictated what would have happened next,” Matheny said. “It really wasn’t clear cut and I don’t think it still is clear cut, maybe even to the umpiring crew, if that call is made right away that that’s a catch, can they reverse that?
“If that call’s made, that completely changes the intent of what we have to do with the next play. … I saw the home plate umpire come up with his arm, didn’t know the timing of it, but at that point you take away a play from any of the other bases. That was my argument. The play is not to first base if we get a quick ruling on what it is and if he’s called out we need to go in the direction we went.”
The Cardinals had to come back onto the field after the lengthy delay and Kelly, making just his second big league start, allowed a two-out hit to Mike Moustakas to put the Royals up 1-0. The near-capacity crowd then erupted into a loud chorus of boos directed towards the umpiring crew.
The Cardinals have no issue with the original call eventually being ruled a trap and not a catch. Most agreed the ball hit the ground. What they didn’t like was the decision to change a play that had already happened and more importantly, change what ensued following it.
Had the ball been ruled a hit right away, Kelly could have thrown to second and gone for the double play. But when it was ruled out, he instead threw to first to double off the runners, which advanced to second and third.
“That shouldn’t have been a reversible call,” Matheny said. “I agreed with them on the call, they got it right in the end, but the problem was I saw somebody call out, which takes (Kelly’s) attention away from second base or third base to where we’d be turning a double play on no catch.”
DeMuth told a pool reporter after the game that the problem began when Danley signaled out even though he wasn’t 100 percent sure.
“I wanted a call of ‘no-catch’ or ‘catch,'” DeMuth said. “I was trying to signal, ‘Give me something.’ Kerwin just gave something without knowing it was a catch. … Kerwin just plainly made the mistake by throwing up the arm. So, let’s get the call right.
“Because of where the runners were and an out was made on it, I could get the right call. Nobody scored and those two runners could stay where they were. …Everybody else, I guess, knew that it was not a catch. So, I said, ‘Let’s get the right call.'”
DeMuth added that, “(Kelly) could have turned and maybe tried to turn a double play, but he tried to get away by saying it was a catch.”
Matheny tried to protest the game but was told that a judgment call couldn’t be protested. Problem was, that’s not what he was trying to protest.
“I said I wasn’t protesting the judgment of the play,” Matheny said. “I think they got it right. I thought the ball hit the ground and after I saw it later I know it did, but that’s not the issue. When the kid comes up with the ball ready to make a play, he’s looking for a quick call to make so that will tell him what he’s going to do with the ball next. That was the issue.”
Not only did Matheny try to protest the game, he also tried to get an extra out on the play.
“Mike was totally classy with it,” DeMuth said. “He never said that we changed it to a bad call. He never said that we got it wrong. He said, ‘I want two outs.’ I said, ‘We’re going to get the right call here, but I’m not going to give you two outs.’
“Mike even said, ‘I want you guys to get back together and figure out a way to give me two outs. That’s all I want.’ I couldn’t laugh, but he did say that.”
The controversy comes a night after the Cardinals had the tying run called out at the plate to end the game despite replays showing he might have slid his foot across the plate before the tag.
The cross-state rivals were involved in a slightly bigger controversial call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, when a missed call at first base aided the Royals in their eventual World Series title.