DETROIT -- It ended up not costing the Orioles in their 5-2 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night, but a controversial play in the seventh inning definitely could have turned the momentum of the game.
With the Orioles leading by three with two on and no outs, Torii Hunter hit a grounder to third that Manny Machado scooped and reached out to tag Tigers baserunner Brayan Pena going from second to third. Machado then threw to second base to get the force out there.
Had the ball been ruled a double play, the Orioles would have had taken two runners out of scoring position and had two outs.
But the umpires ruled that Machado didn’t tag Pena – replays appeared to show that Machado’s glove brushed Pena on his jersey. During the play, second-base umpire Laz Diaz pointed to Machado, which is usually a precursor to an out call, but after the game crew chief Tim Timmons explained it differently.
“On that play, the runner's coming towards me,” Timmons told a pool reporter. “It can either be the second-base umpire or the third-base umpire. Laz was at second. I was at third. The point was to me, to tell me that that's my play. So he pointed at me immediately. There's no tag. We looked on the replay. There doesn't appear to be a tag on there. There was no tag. The initial call was just communication between us, and we explained that to [Orioles manager] Buck [Showalter] when he came out.”
After the game, Machado said he thought he had made the tag.
“I thought it was an out at first,” Machado said. “I thought I tagged him. At first, raised his shirt a little bit, grazed it and then I thought he ran out of the baseline. I thought he called out at first and then turned around and he said no. It was a tough call by him. It could have gone either way, but it happened.”
The play placed runners at the corners and forced the Orioles to face the tying run twice in the inning, but Darren O’Day retired Miguel Cabrera and left-hander Brian Matusz needed just one pitch to induce a pop-up from Prince Fielder to end the inning.
“We made it not matter,” Showalter said. “I put Manny in a tough spot there [by] asking him. I just looked at the replay before I came down here so I didn’t make a complete [fool] out of myself, but I wanted to see if he was out of the baseline, which he wasn’t at the time of the tag. He was out after the tag attempt. It’s debatable if you just look at replay whether he did or didn’t, so we lost that 50-50.”