July 03, 2011
When does three pitches equal a walk? When the scoreboard operator at Safeco Field has the balls and strikes count wrong, apparently.
During the fifth inning of the Seattle Mariners' 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on Saturday, Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin(notes) drew a walk on what everyone in the ballpark believed to be a full 3-2 count. The only problem was that Mariners pitcher Doug Fister(notes) had only thrown three balls in the at-bat.
How does that happen? Isn't the home plate umpire keeping track of balls and strikes? Yes, and Phil Cuzzi had the count right at 2-2. But when he looked up at the scoreboard and saw the 3-2 count, Cuzzi believed he'd made a mistake. So Fister was issued ball four and Maybin was awarded first base.
The really crazy part is that Fister, nor any of the Mariners players, nor any field personnel from the dugout, said a thing about it.
Following the game, Seattle manager Eric Wedge admitted that, yep, he missed that one.
"Ultimately it's our job to watch the game,'' he said. "It's a mistake. A 1-0 ball game, obviously it means a great deal. But it still doesn't change the fact that we've got to score a run to win.''
Maybin said he didn't realize the error, either. (But even if he had, would he have copped to it afterwards? Perhaps.)
"I didn't know; I thought it was a full count," Maybin said. "I thought it was ball four and I headed toward first. No one said anything. Weird. I just heard about it (after the game) that it was only ball three."
The three-ball walk to Maybin was costly for the Mariners, as he eventually came around to score on an Alberto Gonzalez(notes) single. That ended up being the game's only run, as the Seattle lineup only mustered two hits against Cory Luebke(notes) and three Padres relievers.
After Maybin scored, word began to buzz around the field and press box that a mistake had been made. But since no one protested and play kept going, the umpiring crew had to wait until the game had ended to review the play. Sure enough, they discovered that the count should have been 3-2 when Maybin was given the walk.
"My plate umpire thought his count was wrong. The scoreboard had 3-2 and he thought he was wrong because when Maybin took off for first, nobody said anything," [crew chief Tom] Hallion said. "The catcher didn't react, the dugout didn't react so he thought he had the wrong count."
Fister pitched a complete game, allowing just that one run along with six hits in what has to be one of the toughest losses he's ever experienced. Everyone — umpires, manager, teammates, scoreboard operator — ended up letting him down by missing that call.