Things could not have gone any better for the Oakland A's on Wednesday. First of all, they arrived to Target Field in Minnesota knowing the Texas Rangers had already lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, completing the three-game series sweep. Then they took full advantage of their opportunity to put distance between themselves and Texas by delivering their biggest offensive game of the season.
In total, the A's scored 18 runs on a whopping 22 hits in defeating the Twins and pushing their division advantage to three games. Each of the nine hitters in their starting lineup contributed to those numbers with at least one hit, one run and one RBI. When you hear the term "filling the stat sheet" that's exactly what they mean. But there was one big moment in the game that highlighted how great Oakland's day was going and probably helped turn a huge offensive performance into a momentous one.
It happened in the fourth inning. The A's had already plated three runs in the frame and were leading 6-1 when Jed Lowrie stepped up with the bases loaded and nobody out. One a 1-1 pitch, Lowrie ripped a ball down the right field line that first base umpire Bill Miller had to muster all of his remaining athleticism to avoid. Unfortunately, in the process, he also lost sight of the ball, which was his first problem. His second problem was he immediately had to make a call on a play he didn't see. He guessed foul, and the A's, though understanding of his predicament, weren't going to let it go, either.
After a mild argument from Lowrie and a more convincing one from A's manager Bob Melvin, Miller, to his credit, called for help from crew mates Dale Scott (home plate), Todd Tichenor (second base) and CB Bucknor (third base). After a near minute long conference, the call was ultimately reversed. Lowrie was credited with what amounts to a ground rule double. The other three runners were all advanced 180 feet, pushing Oakland's lead to 8-1.
This led to a more vehement argument from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and eventually his ejection.
Honestly, it wasn't an outcome altering reversal as much as it served as the opener of the flood gates for Oakland's offense, but it's still noteworthy any time a fair-foul call is reversed on a play that isn't reviewable (basically a home run). That's even more true when it's a play that results in runs scoring and the umpires having to determine where base runners would have ended up.
Most importantly, though, they did get the initial call correct after their conference. The ball clearly hit the chalk and was fair. However, I'm not sure Lowrie deserved a double — by the way he's third in baseball with 43 doubles this season — because the ball shot out into right field after hitting the wall. The other runners would have easily advanced the two bases they were awarded, but it would have had to be a hustle double for Lowrie.
It's a minor quip in a situation I felt the umpires handled well on their own. With replay, it should only be easier and quicker to sort out such situations, but when it comes to baseball you know it'll never end up as easy as it should.
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- Jed Lowrie