Umpire's 'unusual call' gives Reds pitcher chance at home run history

It’s amazing the impact that one umpire’s call, good or bad, can have on a baseball game.

On Wednesday, we were reminded just how vital each call can be when an umpire’s controversial decision created a historic opportunity for a Cincinnati Reds pitcher, while nearly having damaging consequences for the Milwaukee Brewers.

It all centered around a two-pitch sequence during the sixth inning of the Brewers’ wild 13-12, extra-inning victory against the Reds at the Great American Ball Park.

The call

Michael Lorenzen, the Reds’ home-run hitting relief pitcher, was at the plate in the sixth inning when he appeared to bunt a two-strike pitch from Milwaukee’s Taylor Williams foul.

Per MLB rules, when a player bunts a two-strike pitch foul, it’s counted as a strikeout. However, home plate umpire Tony Randazzo saw this situation differently and instead allowed the at-bat to continue.

As crew chief Bill Welke explained following the game, Randazzo and his crew ruled that because Lorenzen attempted to pull his bat back in the process of avoiding Williams’ up and in pitch, it was no longer a bunt attempt. When bat and ball made contact as Lorenzen fell down, it was ruled a simple foul ball.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell understandably did not agree with Randazzo’s call. It was very close, and it happened very quick. Almost too quick to process what happened. The Brewers manager briefly argued his case. He would be even less pleased after the following pitch.

The outcome

Lorenzen’s original goal was to sacrifice bunt Cincinnati’s baserunners to second and third. However, when the up and in pitch knocked Lorenzen down, Reds manager Jim Riggleman decided to let him swing away.

Swing away he did, crushing the next pitch for a three-run home run. The blast extended Cincinnati’s slim one-run lead to a 10-6 advantage. Little did we know how much more scoring would follow.

Cincinnati Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen follows through on his fourth home run of the season during Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. (Getty Images)
Cincinnati Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen follows through on his fourth home run of the season during Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. (Getty Images)

Historic implications

The second-chance home run was Lorenzen’s fourth overall this season. As long as the Reds don’t use him to start a game this season, it will also guarantee him a unique place in MLB history.

Four home runs never happens for a relief pitcher, mainly because they rarely get at-bats to begin with. Lorenzen’s a different breed, though. He’s been used as a pinch-hitter many times, and even hit a grand slam that sealed a win against Milwaukee earlier this season.

Lorenzen’s a real offensive weapon.

Brewers avoid disaster

Fortunately for the Brewers, they rallied to win Wednesday’s game behind Christian Yelich’s incredible six-hit cycle. Could you imagine the anger in Milwaukee if they hadn’t?

Again, it was a close call. One that could have gone either way. But the Brewers desperately need everything to go their way right now. They have very little margin for error. Wednesday’s win moved them to five games back in the NL Central, and kept them a half-game up in the wild card standings.

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