Forget Chris Davis for a moment and focus on the ball Evan Longoria hit early Thursday evening in the ninth inning with two on and no one out, the ball that carried to the top of the left-center field wall before bouncing back toward the infield and sent all the runners running.
For a moment it appeared as if the Tampa Bay Rays were gearing up for another big comeback against the Baltimore Orioles. The four-run deficit would be trimmed to three runs, maybe even two. At the very least, the Rays would have runners on second and third with no-outs against Orioles closer Jim Johnson.
… Longoria was called out for passing Ben Zobrist on the base path between first and second base. The comeback fizzled and the Rays lost 6-3 in front of 17,491 at Senior Prom for Senior Citizens Day at Tropicana Field.
“Of course I thought it was a big turning point,” Longoria said. “We go form second and third and no out in 6-3 ballgame to runner on (third), one out.”
Of course, Longoria didn’t think he passed Zobrist, and neither did Zobrist.
“I did not see him at all, so I was really surprised they called him out,” Zobrist said. “I had no idea why, because I certainly didn’t see him in my peripheral at all. I didn’t feel him, either. Sometimes you feel somebody behind you.”
The Rays found themselves in the ninth inning hole because Davis, the Orioles first baseman, had another big game – four RBI against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez, two on a second inning homer and two more on a sixth inning double. Davis homered in all three games and left town with 11 RBI and a .636 batting average.
“Without Chris Davis we’re 3-0,” Longoria said.
Instead, the Rays are 1-2 after the first series of the year.
They had a chance to flip that record when pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez was hit in the knee to start the ninth and Zobrist followed with a single.
Orioles manager called for Johnson, and Longoria jumped on the first pitch, nearly hitting it out of the park for a three-run homer.
Zobrist, thinking the ball might caught by left fielder Nate McLouth or center fielder Adam Jones, started heading back to first base to tag up.
“It was a mistake, really a base-running mistake,” Zobrist said. “I would have rather gone right at second base and wait to see what happened, and if they catch the ball then run back to first base. It was unfortunate. It was a tough call regardless of what that call ended up being.”
Longoria, meanwhile, took a big turn around first base. First base umpire James Hoye ruled Longoria passed Zobrist. Credit Longoria with an RBI single and give the put out to Davis, the first baseman.
“I don’t really think I could have passed him,” Longoria said. “From my perspective I was watching the ball the whole time and I wasn’t really running hard. I knew there was a runner in front of me. I didn’t know where Zo was, but as soon as I saw the ball hit the ground I took one hard step, and as soon as took that one hard step I saw Zo right to my left so I figured I couldn’t have passed him because I hadn’t even started to run hard yet.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon argued that home plate umpire Jim Reynolds had a better call but the umpire didn’t confer.
“It’s a judgment (call),” crew chief John Hirschbeck said. “But like I told Joe, that’s like a missed base. That’s not something that an umpire just comes up with. That’s the kind of thing you either see it or you don’t.”
Maddon said the situation could have been avoided with better base running.
“It’s just like whenever you hit a car from behind, whose fault is it?” Maddon said. “It’s unfortunate, and again, you always tell the trail runner to watch the guy in front of you. I always tell him that. That’s just base running 101.”
Poor base running or not, Longoria felt the he should have been on second base with a double and the rally should have continued uninterrupted.
“Bottom line, I didn’t think it was the right call,” Longoria said. “If you're going to make that call in that situation it's got to be kind of blatant. I’ve got to be five feet beyond where he's at, but again those things happen.”