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Safe?! Stunning umpire’s call gives Braves win in 19 innings

After 19 innings that lasted 6 hours, 39 minutes, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle put it like this:

"The game tonight deserved way better than that," Hurdle said.

It appears, from the screen capture above, that Pirates catcher Mike McKenry tagged Julio Lugo(notes) on the leg before the baserunner reached home plate. Umpire Jerry Meals somehow saw it differently and called Lugo safe, allowing the Atlanta Braves to break a tie and win 4-3 in the longest game ever, by time, for both teams.

Watch the blown call here

The throw home on pitcher Scott Proctor's(notes) grounder beat Lugo to the plate by at least 10 feet. Lugo, who did a pop-up slide, didn't appear to touch home plate until after Meals made the "safe" sign. Proctor hilariously fell on his face running out of the batter's box, so the Pirates probably would have turned an inning-ending double play had the call at home gone differently.

But McKenry also made a quick swipe tag (Lugo said he didn't feel it) and got no benefit of the doubt from Meals. Until after the game.

"I saw the tag, but he looked like he oléd him and I called him safe for that," Meals said. "I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area. I'm guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there when it happened I didn't see a tag."

Meals' postgame admission won't hurt in getting replay hawks, such as Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, buzzing. (I only would add a call for Major League Baseball to improve its human umpiring in the first place.)

Hurdle argued with Meals until he was purple in the face, but there can be no protesting of the game, no reversing the ruling. It was a judgment call. Looking at the play from other angles, or on video, isn't terribly conclusive about the tag itself.

The context is what's shocking.

And not just because the throw beat him by so much, but because of how long it had taken — 15 innings — for someone to score. The awesome tedium that only a seemingly endless baseball game can produce. The tone-deaf little girl screaming "Let's go Pirates" with no rhythm. The guy running up and down the aisles balancing 50 beer cups. The fact that Pittsburgh finds itself in a pennant race for the first time since 1992. What if the Pirates lose the NL Central by a game?

That's the awful part, that a big game wasn't decided by the players but — again — a third party. It feels like another Jim Joyce/Armando Galarraga(notes) moment that we'll never get back. And I'm not buying the Joyce-Daniel McCutchen book, either.

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