Commentary

Tigers get mad, Sox get even at .500

Jim Leyland blows his top as Boston capitalizes on blown call to break game open

Updated: May 29, 2012, 2:01 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's what you do, Mike Aviles said after Boston's 7-4 win over the Tigers on Monday, whenever there might be doubt. It doesn't require great elocution, histrionics or the skills of a method actor.

[+] EnlargeMike Aviles
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMike Aviles singled in a run and later scored in the second after not being called out on strikes.

Sometimes, a few words and a bit of strategic pointing is all it takes, which is what the Red Sox shortstop did Monday afternoon when he foul-tipped a third strike and thought the ball might have touched the ground before it reached the glove of Detroit catcher Gerald Laird.

"First thing I did, I said it bounced, because I thought I heard it bounce," Aviles said. "I wasn't sure, but if I don't say anything and walk to the dugout, then I'm out.

"But if I say something, at least they can all get together and they can check at first base. There's always a chance. You never know."

If Laird caught the ball, Aviles would be out, ending the inning without the Red Sox scoring a run.

But plate umpire Jeff Nelson had sufficient doubt to ask first-base umpire Bill Welke, who pointed emphatically to the ground to indicate that he concurred with Aviles, that the ball hit the surface first before it nestled into Laird's mitt.

Given that reprieve, Aviles followed with a run-scoring double, which begat Daniel Nava's run-scoring double, which begat Dustin Pedroia's RBI single, which begat a full-throated rant after the game from Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whose agitated state came honestly. Leyland saw on replay what the umpires had failed to detect: Nothing had come between the ball and Laird's mitt.

"There shouldn't have been a second-inning rally," Leyland said, his postgame discourse commencing at conversational level. "There's three outs. I've been in the game a long time. When the catcher catches the ball and it's strike three, you're out. It's that simple, isn't it?"

Leyland, who had already given an earful to Welke after being ejected following the inning -- his dismissal coming after Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont was run by crew chief Tim Tschida for his vociferous protests -- was just warming to his subject.

"You guys [reporters] have to write something and hold people accountable," he said, voice rising. "You know what, we're all accountable in this business. All of us are accountable, and when I say all of us, I mean everybody that's involved in the game needs to be held accountable, OK? That's exactly what needs to be done. There should not have been a rally in that inning."

Finally, Leyland went Krakatoa on the subject, the full force of his indignation bouncing off the walls of the small office in which Fenway houses its visiting managers.

[+] EnlargeJim Leyland
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesTigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected in the fateful second, and didn't appear to have calmed down following Detroit's loss.

"Was that a ridiculous call? Then write it was a [expletive] ridiculous call," he said. "A ridiculous [expletive] call, not just a bad call or a maybe call but a [expletive] ridiculous call. Write the [expletive] thing. That's all.

"I protect the umpires more than anybody, but [expletive], it's a ridiculous [expletive] call. You saw it, write it. ... I'm not a [expletive] writer. I'm a [expletive] manager."

It remains to be seen whether a Yawkey Way work crew will have sufficient time to replace the paint Leyland peeled off his office walls. And while it's doubtful that it will make the manager feel any better, given that his team (23-25) has hardly resembled the monolith that rolled over the Sox in the season's opening series, here it comes:

It was a bleeping ridiculous call.

On that, he will get no argument from the man who had tossed him just hours before.

"What looks crystal clear [on video] didn't look crystal clear from the first-base line," Welke told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com after the game.

Give the Red Sox credit for taking advantage of the blown call, which Leyland did, of course. But it's hard to dispute that the call drastically affected the outcome of the game.

Felix Doubront had a 4-1 lead with which to work, a lead that became 5-1 an inning later when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered, his fourth home run in the past eight games. The Sox left-hander gave a run back when Laird took him deep in the fifth, just as Delmon Young had in the second, but otherwise Doubront was dandy, especially against the two big boppers in the Detroit lineup, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Doubront struck out fellow Venezuelan Cabrera twice, while Fielder rolled out three times.

"I respect him," Doubront said of Cabrera. "I know he's a good hitter. I didn't show any fear -- just throw the ball and make him swing the bat, that's very important, and throw the ball with conviction."

Scott Atchison (17 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, 0.93 ERA) fanned four in his two innings before Alfredo Aceves was taken deep in the ninth inning for the second game in a row, this time by Jhonny Peralta and with the Sox safely ahead.

So the Sox draw to .500 for the sixth time, and for the sixth time will try to put their heads above water for the first time this season. It won't be easy. On deck is Justin Verlander, the American League Cy Young Award winner.

But after the type of assist they got today, the Sox might feel a little better about their chances.

"It's just a judgment call," Aviles said of the afternoon's fulcrum moment. "If you can see it, it's great. If not, so be it. It's one of those things, you just have to make a call.

"It's unfortunate they have to be put in that situation, but the ball rolled in our favor today."

ESPNBoston.com intern Bill Humphrey contributed to this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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