NEW YORK Joe Girardi could have used a birthday present Sunday: increased instant replay for umpires.
The Yankees manager was ejected from Game 2 of the AL championship series on his 48th birthday after arguing a pivotal missed call by second base umpire Jeff Nelson in a 3-0 loss to Detroit that left New York in a 2-0 deficit.
Nelson admitted he blew the call on second baseman Robinson Cano's tag, which should have ended the eighth inning before Detroit expanded its lead from one run to three. And Girardi still was steamed Cano was called out by Jeff Kellogg on a close play in the opener, a 6-4, 12-inning loss.
"Too much is at stake. We play 235 days to get to this point, and two calls go against us," Girardi said with passion in his voice.
New York was trailing 1-0 with two outs in the eighth Sunday when Austin Jackson singled with Omar Infante on first. Right fielder Nick Swisher threw to second, where Infante had run past the base, and Cano tagged him on the chest sliding back.
"I had the tag late and the hand going into the bag before the tag on the chest," Nelson said.
Then he watched the replay after the game.
"The hand did not get in before the tag. The call was incorrect," Nelson explained.
After Boone Logan relieved, pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia blooped a single to right for a 2-0 lead and Girardi returned to the mound to bring in Joba Chamberlain. Girardi got into a heated discussion with Nelson and was tossed. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera followed with another single for a 3-0 lead.
"He told me let it go. He was trying to keep me in the game," Girardi said. "It's hard to let it go, you know, when it changes the complexion of the game."
Infante knew he should have been called out.
"I think the umpire got confused `cause he saw my hand," he said. "Something with my hand made him think I was safe."
New York felt it was a turning point.
"That's a monster play in that situation," Swisher said. "It's a lot different as a one-run game than it is a three-run game."
Four of Girardi's five ejections this year have come in games against Detroit. He's been tossed 22 times overall, including 19 as a manager.
"In this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it's got to change," Girardi said. "I have been thrown out of games enough to know it would be quicker to get the call right or wrong or right on replay than for me to go out there and argue."
CBSSports.com's Dayn Perry says it would be an exaggeration to say the missed call cost the Yankees the game but it may nudge the league closer to installing expanded replay.
"The Yankees, of course, failed to score, so their primary complaints about the outcome of Game 2 should be directed at their hitters," Perry writes. "But it was an obviously blown call that, given a competent Yankee offense, could have turned a win into a loss. The obvious question, now that such a play has occurred under very conspicuous circumstances, is whether Nelson's call will advance the cause of expanded replay in MLB. "
Baseball began video review by umpires late in the 2008 season, but it is used only to determine whether potential home runs went over the fence or were fair. The commissioner's office is considering an expansion to allow for video to determine whether balls down the lines are fair and whether fly balls are trapped.
Equipment was installed this year at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field to test technology. But the expansion of replay under consideration wouldn't have included Sunday's tag play.
"I understand Joey's frustration. You want everything to be perfect, and it's not perfect," said MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, Girardi's former manager with the Yankees.
"The sad part about it is umpires, players, managers, they are all human. And it happens. Certainly we don't mean for it to happen. And the umpires, you have to be in that room to appreciate how the effect it has on an umpire that missed a call, especially in postseason, where obviously the chips are on the table," he said.