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Red Sox survive after blown call at home plate

Jul 5, 2011, 9:57 PM EDT

Jason Varitek, Edwin Encarnacion

What looked like an easy win for the Red Sox suddenly got tense Tuesday, after Jonathan Papelbon came into a 3-0 game and gave up a two-run homer to Jose Bautista with none out in the ninth.

Papelbon went on to surrender a single to Edwin Encarnacion with one out, a walk to J.A. Arencibia with two outs and then a John McDonald single to left that seemed poised to tie the game.  The reason it didn’t is because Jason Varitek threw his left foot in front of home plate, blocking Encarnacion’s path to the base.

Sure enough, Varitek blocked Encarnacion’s left foot from the plate.  However, Encarnacion’s right foot, trailing the left, clearly touched home before Varitek could apply the tag.  Umpire Brian Knight called him out anyway, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 victory.

Despite losing Jon Lester to a strained lat after four innings, the Red Sox took a no-hitter into the sixth, when Bautista singled to break it up.  The Jays had just two hits through eight before collecting four against Papelbon in the ninth.

It was the first time this season that Papelbon had given up four hits in an appearance, and he allowed his first runs since June 4.  He’s 18-for-19 saving games this season despite a rather bloated 4.02 ERA.

Dustin Pedroia homered for Boston.

  1. Kevin S. - Jul 5, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    And we don’t have instant replay, why, again?

  2. proudlycanadian - Jul 5, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    Doesn’t it seem as if most bad calls benefit the home team?

    • Kevin S. - Jul 5, 2011 at 10:59 PM

      Seems, yes. I know it’s happened at Yankee Stadium quite a bit, and seems to happen more for the Yankees than on the road. I’d be curious to see somebody break it down, if that’s possible.

      • kiwicricket - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:10 PM

        I have noticed the same thing. Might just be one of those things, but it’s interesting.

      • Brian Murphy - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:29 PM

        I know I am going to phrase this poorly because I am not a psychologist, but I think home teams getting favorable calls on such plays has something to do with the home fans’ cheering and rising excitement in anticipation for an “out” call. The umpires, viewing these bang-bang plays, hear this and I feel like they are almost swayed to side with what the fans want.

        I’m sure that jibes closely with some sort of group-versus-individual theory somewhere.

      • kiwicricket - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:56 PM

        I know exactly what you mean. I actually started writing something similar but flagged it. I know first-hand from umpiring cricket that you can be under-pressure and certainly on the spot sometimes. Really can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like having 45,000 people screaming at you. There used to be similar sub-conscience bias in international cricket, but replay solved that 15odd years ago….but that’s for another day….

      • mella21 - Jul 6, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        so…a post on the red sox benefiting from a blown call gets turned back to the Yankees. How very original.

    • frankvzappa - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:29 PM

      That’s because in the bottom of the ninth, the umps want a walkoff so they can go home. They don’t want to see extras like the rest of us.

  3. unsatisfiedmind - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    I’m all for instant replay and I think strike zones should be called using technology better than human judgement.

    This blown call at home plate is only controversial because Knight missed an easy 3rd strike call on Patterson to start the inning. Patterson singled on the next pitch and then scored on Bautista’s HR.

    If Patterson is called out to start the inning as he should have been, Encarnacion wouldn’t have represented the tying run in that spot.

    I guess this is one of those rare cases where two wrongs do make a right…

    • danman53 - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:31 AM


      The number of pitches that are being called other than what the electronic stirke zones clearly confirm are, is getting absurd. I think Papalbon, and maybe sox pitching in general, has been paying the price even after JP`s suspension.

      I generally just watch the games on MLB gameday at work during the evening and there seems to be at least 8-10 obvious blown strike calls.

      Officiating should be a neutral factor on the game, but without umps being held to PUBLIC scrutiny that cannot be the case.

  4. deathmonkey41 - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    I thought he was safe when I saw the replay pop up during the Yankees game

  5. Glenn - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Honestly, it looked to me like he kicked up the dirt near the plate then his foot went over the plate. There is no way that replay would overturn that call, but people can judge for themselves.

  6. Glenn - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    From that picture, you cannot tell if the foot is on the plate or going over it. Presumptuous to call it a blown call.

    • hystoracle - Jul 6, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      In the picture his foot is Laying on the Plate! And the tag has yet to be applied. HE is clearly safe. Take of your Boston homer glasses. Not the first blown call at the plate this season. This is where replay is needed.

      Baseball is stuck in the stone age when it comes to technology. Every other major sport uses replay for critical plays. Not baseball – only home Runs which occurs once in a blue moon. And they wonder why attendance is down!

      • mornelithe - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:40 AM

        @ Hystoracle: Replays also would’ve made the 2-run shot by Bautista a solo shot, as Patterson clearly struck out in the previous AB. Mistakes are constantly made by Umps.

  7. Senor Cardgage - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    Maybe this was a blown call, but maybe not. I’ve watched the replay frame-by-frame from four different angles, and I’m not convinced Encarnacion’s right foot actually touches the plate before the tag. To me it looks as though the foot passes over the plate in the air. If it did touch, it just barely grazed the plate. If baseball did have instant replay and I were the replay umpire, I would not overturn this call.

  8. Jack Marshall - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I think the play argues for NOT using the instant replay. The video was equivocal, and the ump was right there. He was in the best position to see if the foot brushed the plate or just went over it. There was no argument.

    That said, I though he was safe when the play happened.

    • Kevin S. - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:22 AM

      No, it doesn’t. I disagree with you that the video was equivocal, and we’ve seen umps blow plays they were right there for before. However, a video that was equivocal would simply lead to the replay ump not overturning the call.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:43 AM

        Yeah, it’s not like we’re saying only go with the video. The ump can have pretty unsure views himself, so having another viewpoint that can overrule if it has a clear shot is never bad.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:33 AM

      Just like that ump had the best view on the last out of Gallaraga’s no-hitter and still blew it badly.

  9. pisano - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    It sounds like Papelbum is rounding into his usual mid season form where he can’t hold a lead. It’s just the beginning, Daniel Bard, get ready you’ll be taking over soon.

    • aceshigh11 - Jul 6, 2011 at 7:19 AM

      Daniel Bard is not ready by a long shot.

      We’re stuck with Papelbon for the duration of the season.

      • JBerardi - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:35 AM

        Yes, we’re “stuck” with Papelbon and his 6.43 K/BB ratio this season. The horror!

        Forget all this “closer” nonsense; the idea that the Red Sox pen is going to be better by giving up their second-best reliever is just foolish on it’s face.

  10. Ari Collins - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    Man, he must blow tons of leads to make you say that!

    What’s his career save percentage again?



    Well, what’s it this year?


    Oh. That’s… that’s pretty good.

    BUT. There was that one year it dropped down to 82%! That’s pretty terrible, huh?

    • Ari Collins - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:42 AM

      Aaaaand reply fail. (Supposed to be @pisano above, obvs.)

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:39 AM

      I think Papeldoosh catches more guff from Red Sox fans than he does fans of other teams. I never understood all the calls to replace him and I say that in all seriousness. Not like my, “John Lackey should start 3 times a week” line.

  11. proudlycanadian - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Varitek missed the tag.

  12. ditto65 - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    I blame East Coast Bias.

  13. mornelithe - Jul 6, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Of course, we could also be talking about how the game should only have been 3-1. The batter before Bautista struck out (watch the replay, clearly in the strike zone), then after a blown call, hit a single. Blame the umps, could very well be a ‘my bad’, type of situation where the Ump tries to make up for a bad call earlier.

    He did look safe though, so, scratching the BS ball call, still only would’ve been 3-2.

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