When the Philadelphia Phillies were wrapping up batting practice Friday, about an hour before the first pitch, manager Charlie Manuel learned that crew chief Joe West had called in sick. The game would be played with three umpires instead of four.
The short-handed umpiring crew would loom large for the Phillies in the final outcome of the game. After dropping a 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Washington Nationals, the Phils wondered about three contested calls.
The first didn't have an effect on the game: With a runner on first and one out in the opening inning, Bryce Harper took a half-swing on a 3-1 pitch that was called a ball. As Harper took first, the Phils appealed to third. But there was no umpire to appeal to at third, leading Manuel to complain and get thrown out of the game.
The next two calls came in the seventh inning, and both were at third base.
With Shane Victorino on second and the Phillies holding a 3-2 lead, Carlos Ruiz ripped a pitch down the third base line. It was called foul.
"Fair ball. All night long." said Manuel, who saw the televised replay from his seat in the visiting manager's office.
Ruiz said, "It was a fair ball, it crossed the base. That's fair. That's what I saw. Right there, it was a big run for us. It would be the difference in the game."
Later in the inning, Victorino was called out at third on a stolen-base attempt. Televised replays showed his right leg arrive safely on the bag before his left leg was tagged.
The Phils didn't score in the seventh inning. After scoring three runs in the fourth and fifth innings, hitting two home runs off Stephen Strasburg, they didn't score in five innings off the Nationals bullpen.
"The bottom line is we couldn't hold onto that lead," Manuel said, "and we couldn't add on to it."
The Phils (13-13) failed to climb above the .500 mark for the second time in three days. They haven't had a winning record since Opening Day.