OAKLAND — I thought Bob Melvin blew it after the top of the eighth inning against the Red Sox on Saturday, a game the A's won 2-1 in 10. Melvin got thrown out of the game. For no good reason.
I wrote what I just wrote with trepidation. Melvin is one of the top managers in baseball. He is a certified great guy. I happily certify his great-guyness because I covered him as a player and now I cover him as a manager. Just a great guy.
Still, I feel he blew it. Let me explain.
The A's led a tense, tough ballgame 1-0 going into the eighth. Luke Gregerson came in to relieve for Oakland, Gregerson who has one weird motion. He doesn't look like a man pitching. He looks like a man throwing darts in a British pub with World Cup on all the TVs.
Gregerson put runners at first and third with two out. Dustin Pedroia, from nearby Woodland, was the runner at third. Mike Napoli was at the plate. Gregerson got two strikes on Napoli. Gregerson threw the ball and Napoli took a cut. It looked like Napoli foul-tipped the ball. It looked like catcher Stephen Vogt caught the foul tip in his glove. Which meant Napoli struck out. Which would have ended the inning, the A's still ahead 1-0.
But the plate umpire ruled Napoli was not out. He said the ball hit the ground before Vogt caught it. Replays seemed to show the ball did not hit the ground. Which meant Napoli struck out. It's possible Napoli's bat never even touched the ball. Which meant Napoli struck out.
The four umpires knew they had a situation on their hands. They conferred. They confirmed the ruling by home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott. At least, they found no reason to overturn it. FYI, there is no formal review for that kind of play, no boring phone call to New York while baseball stops and everyone is bored to death.
So, Pedroia was at third with two out. On the very next pitch, Gregerson threw some whack-job wild pitch which got away from Vogt. Pedroia, as alert as a ballplayer can be, scooted home while Vogt ran after the ball. Pedroia tied the score, 1-1. It was a whole new ballgame. Napoli flied out to right to end the inning, but that hardly matters.
Now came the interesting part, the dramatic part, the controversial part.
As the A's trotted off the field, Melvin sprinted toward home-plate ump Wolcott. I never saw Melvin run this fast and I've known him for decades. He started arguing with Wolcott. His head was bobbing. No, that's wrong. His head was lurching back and forth and he was thrusting his arms like a madman.