Feel Pirates' only hit in 7-0 loss should have been ruled error
September 1, 2008 8:00 AM
Brewers pitcher CC Sabathia delivers a pitch in yesterday's one-hitter against the Pirates.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It was not a no-hitter.
And, in all likelihood, it never will transform into one.
The Pirates were held to one hit in a CC Sabathia shutout -- a fifth-inning infield single by Andy LaRoche -- in losing their 10th in a row, 7-0, to Milwaukee yesterday at PNC Park. But that one hit was called into question by the Brewers, who felt it should have been an error and appealed to Major League Baseball to review the decision of official scorer Bob Webb.
Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 p.m., Great American Ball Park.
TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (5-10, 5.77) vs. RHP Josh Fogg (2-7, 7.29).
"That's a joke," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "The scorekeeper absolutely denied Major League Baseball a no-hitter."
This was the play ...
LaRoche led off the fifth with a check-swing squibber off Sabathia's 2-2 slider, and it crawled through the grass about 15 feet to the left and front of the mound. Sabathia got to it quickly and tried to barehand it, which he did momentarily, then dropped it. No throw was made.
Within seconds, Webb announced to the press box, "Base hit."
The Brewers immediately phoned the press box to ask Webb to look at a replay. He had done that already, but he did so again about an inning later and stood his ground.
Webb's stance, as he detailed after the game, was that the scorer must consider whether a defensive player must make "an above-ordinary effort."
"The way the ball came off the bat, it was spinning, and it went to the left of the mound with a left-handed pitcher going to get it. It's a difficult play," Webb said. "The definition requires that standard effort is required, and that would have taken more than an ordinary effort."
Moreover, Webb added, "The runner was well down the line. I don't think the pitcher would have gotten an out."
Mike Vassallo, Milwaukee's media relations director, said the Brewers today will send a DVD of the play to MLB senior vice president Phyllis Merhige. She will relay it to a panel that judges all scoring appeals, and that panel will deliver its opinion within a few days.
Bottom line, though, is that the final decision still belongs to Webb: The panel can only make a recommendation to the scorer, and precedent shows those recommendations generally are followed only when clear mistakes are made.
Webb, in his 20th year as a scorer in Pittsburgh, sounded confident his decision was correct.
"That's why I called it right away," he said.
Part of Yost's criticism was that the ruling was made so quickly.
"He threw a hit up on the board before LaRoche had even hit the bag," Yost said. "That's sad."
Webb has no control of when the scoreboard operator adds a hit.
Yost said the play "wasn't even close" as far as being an error, and others in the visiting clubhouse backed him.
"If you know baseball at all, you know that's a play that has to be made and is made all the time. He rushed it. That's a stinkin' no-hitter that we all got cheated out of. I'm upset. That was my first no-hitter. I could have told my grandkids about it."
"Twenty-nine out of 30 scorekeepers would have called that an error," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "To take that away from him, I don't think it's fair."
Just about the only one who appeared to take it well was Sabathia.
"It is what it is," he said. "Just lookin' at the replay, I think I would have had him."
Instead, Sabathia blamed himself.
"If I'd have gloved that ball, everything would have been fine."
Pirates manager John Russell offered a one-word answer when asked if it should have been an error: "No."
LaRoche, after watching a replay, sounded more open-minded.
"I'm sure they'll change it to an error," he said. "I mean, I obviously didn't hit it very hard, so it really doesn't deserve a hit. ... It could have gone either way."
From there, Sabathia retired the final 15 batters to finish two above the minimum, with 11 strikeouts and three walks. To boot, he erased a runner with a spectacular fourth-inning double play in which he barehanded a Nate McLouth liner and tossed to first.
"He was tremendous," Russell said.
There is no precedent for a reversed scoring decision turning a one-hitter into a no-hitter.
The Pirates have not been no-hit since Aug. 14, 1971, when Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals did so at Three Rivers Stadium. But narrowly avoiding a dubious date with history is just about all that has gone right for them of late:
• Their losing streak is their first to reach double-digits since a 13-gamer June 15-28, 2006. There have been no others in the past 40 years.
• They have scored four runs in the past four games, and their only significant output during this streak was nine runs Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs, but six of those came against Carlos Zambrano, who yesterday was shut down by a tired arm.
• Their 7-21 August marked the franchise's worst winning percentage, .250, for any full month since a .185 mark in September 1998, as well as the third-worst in the past 57 years.
It was, as general manager Neal Huntington called it, "one of the toughest months a team can face."
Pirates starter Jeff Karstens gave up Rickie Weeks' game-opening home run and, after putting two aboard with one out in the seventh, was pulled. Tyler Yates promptly gave up Bill Hall's two-run double, leaving Karstens charged with three runs and five hits.
Sean Burnett followed Yates and gave up two more.
"Jeff threw well but, unfortunately, our bullpen didn't do a very good job of holding it." Russell said.
Three more losses, and the Pirates will clinch their 16th consecutive losing season to match the professional sports record.