The umpires botched the call, Chuck Knoblauch blew his cool and the Cleveland Indians escaped Yankee Stadium with a split.
Baseball doesn't get much more bizarre than this. Then again, there's nothing like Yankee Stadium in October to magnify every mishap.
"We just caught a break," Paul Shuey said Wednesday after Cleveland's wild 4-1, 12-inning win over New York evened the AL championship series at one game apiece.
Umpires failed to call Travis Fryman out for interfering with Tino Martinez's throw as he ran inside the line on his bunt attempt, and Enrique Wilson broke a 1-all tie by scoring all the way from first base as Knoblauch stood at the bag pointing and arguing, instead of picking up the ball.
Did umpires make the right call?
Crew chief Jim Evans said it's all a matter of interpretation.
"The fact that he was literally on the base or half a step from the base, he has the right to be in that position," said Evans, who watched the play from right field. "Is it a throw that would have retired him, and how close is he to the base? He has the right to be in fair territory that close to the base."
| Travis Fryman got in the way, but Chuck Knoblauch really dropped the ball in the moments that followed. (AP) |
That's different than section 7.09 (k) of the Official Playing Rules, which states: "A runner is required to have both feet within the 3-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane."
Fryman clearly was in fair territory, not the lane on the foul side, during his entire route from the plate to first.
"I think the call could have gone either way," Evans said.
The play will surely be debated, just like the Jeffrey Maier home run in 1996. That's when the Yankees snatched a win from Baltimore when the 12-year-old Maier caught a Derek Jeter fly before right fielder Tony Tarasco could get it, creating a home run.
This time, it went against the Yankees.
"It was so blatant. I don't know what to say. It was a terrible call," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "There was no line ever touched."
Knoblauch stood at first base with the ball on the ground behind him. Pointing at the bag while Wilson rounded second. Pointing and arguing while Wilson went to third. Still pointing and arguing as he started to head home.
"I don't feel like I didn't play the ball out. I didn't know where it was," Knoblauch said. "I'm pretty shocked. ... I was kind of dumbfounded. The guy's running right at me, and it seemed to me he was running out of the baseline."
Forget about domination, and put revenge on hold -- plays like this can turn a series around.
"We were able to get out of here 1-1 and go back for three games at home," said Shuey, one of the five Cleveland pitchers who combined for 5 1/3 innings of shutout relief. "We're not going to be scared to come back here."
After an off day, the series resumes Friday night at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, with Andy Pettitte (16-11) pitching for New York against Bartolo Colon (14-9).
Torre clearly was disappointed in Knoblauch, who demanded Minnesota trade him last winter so he could play for a winner.
"I watched the replay before I came in here, and he was yelling at the umpire, and you can't do that," the manager said. "You have got to make the play and then go back and argue with the umpire. But I think he was just shocked that they didn't make the call."
David Justice put the Indians ahead with a fourth-inning homer off Cone -- the first time the Yankees trailed this postseason -- but Scott Brosius' RBI double tied the score in the seventh and chased Nagy, who had been working on a four-hit shutout.
Cleveland, blown out 7-2 in Game 1 -- had lost a postseason opener for the eighth straight time. Yet, the Indians have excelled in comebacks, fighting their way into the World Series twice in the past three years.
"At the end, we caught a break and made the most of that opportunity," Hargrove said. "That is what it is all about."
The Yankees, who had won their last four postseason games and 11 in a row overall, were livid. Torre was especially angry at John Shulock, the first-base umpire, and Ted Hendry, the plate umpire.
"The ball-strike stuff stunk tonight, but that stunk for both sides," he said. "I have a bunch of pitches in my pocket that -- I don't think you could have reached a lot of those pitches with bamboo sticks."
Jim Thome had singled off Jeff Nelson, the eventual loser, leading off the 12th, Cleveland's first runner since Omar Vizquel tripled with one out in the eighth. Wilson ran for Thome, and Fryman sent a bunt up the first-base line to Martinez.
"I didn't have much room to really work with," Martinez said. "The ball was bunted right next to the line. I was trying to sneak it in there."
Knoblauch had come over to take the throw and the ball struck Fryman, clearly running in fair territory, in the back. Wilson kept going, nearly tripping himself up as he headed home with gigantic strides. He sprawled into the plate with the go-ahead run just ahead of Jorge Posada's tag.
"I thought we'd have to get a wheelbarrow out there for a while," Hargrove said. "I thought they made the right call. If I were on the other side, I might have a different opinion."
Fryman had the worst view in the ballpark.
"I started out inside the line, and when I knew I could get by Tino, I tried to straighten out a little bit," Fryman said.
Both teams had squandered opportunities. New York stranded 10 runners and Cleveland left seven.
Nagy and Cone were brilliant. Nagy, who beat Boston in Game 3 last week after winning five of his last six decisions in the regular season, allowed one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.
Cone, who wanted to atone for an awful start in the opener against Cleveland last year, gave up five hits in eight innings, striking out five and walking three.
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