Unusual call leads to run for Rays
Baldelli walks in second after ump hesitates on checked swing
ST. PETERSBURG -- They say the worst seats in the house are the nosebleeds at the top of a stadium, but on Thursday, even those with a front-row vantage point at Tropicana Field had moments of confusion on plays that took place just a few feet away.
Game 2 of the World Series included a myriad of quirky plays and head-scratching calls, but none was more perplexing than Rocco Baldelli's walk -- or check-swing strikeout, depending on who's doing the explaining -- in the second inning.
Phillies starter Brett Myers, working with a 3-2 count, threw a slider low and slightly off the plate to Baldelli, who offered at the pitch but stopped short and attempted to check his swing. Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley raised his hand as if he was going to call strike three, but instead, he pointed to first, either to double-check with first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth or to indicate Baldelli checked his swing on ball four and should take his base.
Danley's intention with his arm gesture is up for interpretation. And it was interpreted in several different ways from both dugouts.
"I didn't think I went [around], and I just went to first," said Baldelli, who had already started to jog down the line as Danley raised his arm. "I was facing [toward the field], so I didn't see what was going on behind me. Kerwin asked for help down the first-base line, and as I was jogging to first, they said, 'No swing.' It was OK. I looked at it on film later and it didn't look like I went. I thought the call was right."
But according to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, Danley said he was awarding Baldelli first base, not asking for help when he pointed toward Culbreth.
"When he brought his hand up, I thought he called the guy out," Manuel said. "And when I went out there, he said he was pointing for the guy to go to first base."
Myers, however, was under the impression Danley was asking Culbreth for help.
"When I saw his hand go up like he called it a strike, he said he asked to check," Myers said. "And you definitely could see him call him out. I was like, 'What the heck was that?' It was one of those things where it cost me a run, but you have to keep pitching."
Baldelli's walk set up a run-scoring inning for the Rays. Dioner Navarro singled to right-center prior to Baldelli's at-bat, and Jason Bartlett followed Baldelli with a sharp single to third to load the bases. With two outs, B.J. Upton singled to right, scoring Navarro, and Baldelli was thrown out at home on a perfect throw from Jayson Werth in right field to end the inning.
Myers, who took the loss in a 4-2 defeat, sounded relatively unfazed about the puzzling second-inning play after the game, shrugging his shoulders while giving a nod to the human element of the game.
"You can't let that get in your head," Myers said. "So he missed that one. But maybe he'll get to redeem himself. It's part of the game. There's human error, and that's what makes it unpredictable and that's what makes it fun."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.