CLEVELAND: It was almost like a magician performing a sleight of hand trick with a white rabbit. Now you see it, now you don’t.
The Indians beat the A’s 4-3 Wednesday night at Progressive Field, thanks in part to an umpiring crew that did what no magician can do: turn reality on its head.
There was no doubt that 400-foot plus drives by Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher cleared the fence for solo home runs in the sixth inning to give the Tribe the lead for good.
The landing point of the ball hit by A’s shortstop Adam Rosales wasn’t quite as obvious, but TV replays clearly showed that the drive cleared the yellow padding atop the left field wall and bounced off the railing just above. That made it a home run that would have tied the score with two outs in the ninth. Instead, the umpiring crew called it a double.
When manager Bob Melvin asked the umps to look at replays, they accommodated. Three umpires trotted off the field to watch the show and one remained on the diamond.
“The guy who was still out there said all four umpires thought it was a double that bounced off the padding,” said Chris Perez, the Indians’ closer who threw the offending pitch.
After a lengthy wait, the umpires returned to the field and pointed to second base. In other words, they had not seen the ball clear the padding and stuck with the original call.
“They’re probably the only four people in the ballpark who thought that was not a home run,” said Melvin, who was ejected by second base umpire Angel Hernandez for arguing after the ruling was made.
Added Melvin, “That was a home run. Even if it was by an inch, and it clearly was more than that.”
Speaking for the umpiring crew, Hernandez told a pool reporter, “It wasn’t evident on the TV we had that it was a home run. I don’t know what kind of replay you had, but you can’t reverse a call unless there’s 100 percent evidence, and there wasn’t 100 percent evidence.”
Manager Terry Francona didn’t dispute the umpires’ judgment. Why would he?
“I saw it hit the padding and come back,” he said. “We have the worst view of anybody. I was hopeful it hit the padding. They went out and checked.”
Justin Masterson, who started for the Tribe, played it coy.
“It was called a double,” he said.
Asked if he saw a replay, Masterson said, “I saw a lot of replays. It’s not for me to disagree or not with a call.”
In the meantime, Perez was not free of trouble.
He had Rosales on second with two outs.
He hit the next batter, Eric Sogard, and walked John Jaso to load the bases. But he induced Seth Smith to slap a bouncer back to him, and he ran to first himself to get the third out and preserve his fifth save of the season.
“Luckily we ended up on the right side [not necessarily the correct side] of this one,” Perez said. “We could still be out there dodging raindrops. I do feel sorry for the umpires.”
In seven innings, Masterson gave up three runs and four hits and two walks, hitting one batter and throwing a wild pitch.
Unfortunately for him, all of the hits, the hit batter and the wild pitch came in the fourth inning, when Masterson gave up all of his runs.
Eight A’s batters went to the plate in the fourth inning, with Smith and Jed Lowrie starting the rally with no-out singles. One out later, Brandon Moss singled home the first run, and the wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Daric Barton, who singled both to the plate.
“I think I got a little lazy,” Masterson said. “They took some good swings. And the wild pitch gave them two runs instead of one.”
Before and after the fourth inning, Masterson was in total charge. In six of his seven innings, the only baserunners who reached did so by drawing walks. He completed his assignment by retiring 10 of 11 batters.
The Indians have won nine of 10 to move three games over .500 for the first time this season.
“For me, the entire key for what’s been going is the starting pitching,” Swisher said. “And it’s fun to see the competition these guys have with each other.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.