While instant replay has widely been considered a success in its first few months in Major League Baseball, the A’s 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday included a reminder the system still has limits – namely, that not all controversial and potentially pivotal plays are eligible for review.
With the A’s leading 1-0 in the top of the eighth, two outs and runners on first and third, Boston’s Mike Napoli foul-tipped a two-strike pitch from Luke Gregerson, and umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled it bounced before A’s catcher Stephen Vogt caught it.
Vogt immediately held out the ball to indicate he had caught it cleanly, which would have resulted in an inning-ending strikeout, while manager Bob Melvin sprinted out to argue. The umpires conferred but did not overturn the call. Under replay rules, whether a tipped ball is caught or not is not a reviewable play.
Gregerson’s next pitch to Napoli bounced away from Vogt, and Dustin Pedroia made the aggressive decision to break for home, sliding in safely to tie the score. After Gregerson got Napoli to fly out to end the inning, he left the mound gesturing angrily at Wolcott. Melvin then came out of the dugout to address Wolcott and was ejected.
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The A’s were in better spirits two innings later, after Coco Crisp lined a game-winning single off Koji Uehara to score Alberto Callaspo with one out in the 10th. Still, the fact the game had reached extra innings continued to irk the A’s and Melvin, particularly after the manager said he’d seen replays of the disputed call.
“(Vogt) caught it,” Melvin said. “And you can’t review that play, so I mean, it’s tough. But my feeling is that if there’s a play that needs to be reviewed, you should be able to review it. You just can’t on that one.”
Vogt said there was “no doubt in my mind that I had caught it,” while Gregerson called it “an obvious catch.” Vogt said he thought Wolcott may have heard his glove hit the dirt and thought it was the ball bouncing before being caught – an explanation similar to the one given by umpiring crew chief Gerry Davis to a pool reporter after the game.
“Napoli foul-tipped the ball,” Davis said. “The plate umpire heard sound and thought the ball hit the ground and called it a foul ball.
“(First-base umpire Greg Gibson) did not have anything different. We got together to talk about it. The only (way) we flip that is if the base umpire is positive; (Gibson) said that he was not. So we had to stay with the foul ball.”
The ensuing wild pitch from Gregerson didn’t bounce far from Vogt, but Pedroia quickly broke for home and scored on a headfirst dive. “The block got away from me maybe t 2 feet further than it should have,” Vogt said. “He made a great read.”
It nullified a possible win for A’s starter Jesse Chavez, who pitched seven shutout innings but received his fifth no-decision, including four in which he’s allowed no more than one earned run in six or more innings. Chavez issued a season-high four walks but didn’t give up a hit until the sixth, when Brock Holt flipped a leadoff single into left field.
Until the 10th, though, the A’s had advanced just one runner past first base – Vogt, who led off the third with a triple off Boston starter Rubby De La Rosa and scored on Callaspo’s sinking line drive to right, which Holt caught on a headlong dive.
Callaspo led off the 10th by drawing a walk from right-hander Edward Mujica and moved to second on Nick Punto’s sacrifice. The Red Sox then summoned Uehara to face Crisp, who lined Uehara’s first pitch to right field for his second game-winning RBI in as many days and the seventh walk-off RBI of his career.
With an open first base, Crisp said he wasn’t sure whether the Red Sox would pitch him carefully or be aggressive. “(Uehara) has a cutter and a good sinker and then later he tries to finish you off with his plus splitter,” Crisp said. “I didn’t want to wait around for the splitter, so I was hoping he would come inside, to where I was looking for.”
Crisp received the customary whipped cream pie to the face – this time from Yoenis Cespedes, pinch-hitting for Josh Reddick, who is on a rehabilitation assignment with the River Cats. “He got me good,” Crisp said. “It was a little tough to breathe.”
Melvin, though, was breathing easier after a game that held a bit more late-inning drama than the A’s had anticipated.
“The only thing is that’s a game that we feel like we have, and now we have to use some pitchers that normally we don’t use after that – certainly (right-hander Dan Otero in the 10th),” Melvin said. “But you know, a win is a win. So we’ll take it.”