The Royals had caught a major break. Omar Infante’s line drive was snared by Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, and he looked to double up Eric Hosmer, who was retreating to the bag.
But the ball flew past Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez and into left field. Salvador Perez, at third, trotted home with the run that would have given the Royals a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning.
Hernan Perez, a September call-up infielder sitting in the Tigers’ dugout, noticed something odd: Salvador Perez never went back to touch third base.
Hernan Perez informed Detroit first-base coach Omar Visquel, who told manager Brad Ausmus.
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What happened the next few minutes was surrounded in confusion, but the final call took the run off the board. Perez was called out, the inning was over on what became a double play, and the Royals never recovered, falling 3-2 Saturday.
“I was watching the ball, and saw Suarez miss the ball,” Hernan Perez said. “I saw (Sal) Perez not go back and touch the base. I was focused on the game. I pay attention to every pitch.
“I was the only one who saw that play.”
What the umpires saw was another matter.
The Tigers’ dugout informed pitcher Max Scherzer to appeal, to throw to third base and have Salvador Perez called out for not tagging up.
Third-base umpire and crew chief Larry Vanover spread his arms with a safe call.
That brought Ausmus from the dugout to discuss the issue with Vanover. Ausmus knew a tag-up play is not subject to challenge under baseball’s replay rules.
“But this wasn’t a case where you’re challenging whether a player left early on not,” Ausmus said. “This is basically a missed base, and missed bases are challengable. That was the basis for the challenge.”
Is that was it was, a missed base?
Vanover said Ausmus wanted the crew to be sure of the call.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m like 90 percent (sure) that retagging on a line drive or fly ball is not a reviewable play,’ ” Vanover said to a pool reporter. “And he said, ‘Well, what’s the difference between missing a base and tagging up?’ ”
The umpires met and discussed what was and wasn’t reviewable.
“The crew was like 75 percent that you cannot review that, but we weren’t 1,000 percent (sure),” Vanover said.
The umpires gathered and broke to communicate with the Major League Baseball office in New York, where all replay decisions are made.
“I said, ‘I need to know whether tagging up on a line drive is a reviewable or no reviewable play’ and they came back with the answer that it’s not a reviewable play,” Vanover said.
The crew reconvened, and it broke this time and they talked about what they saw.
“We took a consensus of the information, out of that crew consultation, we came up with the answer that he didn’t tag up, he didn’t tag the base.”
That’s not what Vanover first ruled. Remember, he gave the safe sign on the Tigers’ appeal.
“Originally I thought he was coming back, so I ruled safe on the appeal, but now after the crew consultation we took a consensus of the information,” Vanover said.
By then, the Royals Crown Vision replay had shown Salvador Perez not returning to third base, but Vanover said the crew was not influenced by the replay.
“Video board did not come into play,” he said. “You cannot do that.”
Perez was out, and he was confused.
When he saw the ball sail into the outfield, “I never thought about tagging,” Perez said. “It was a reaction. I’ve never seen something like that, or have it happen to me before.”
After the game Royals officials reached out to MLB headquarters to see if the club could protest the outcome. The umpires had reversed a call on a play that wasn’t reviewable. But as Royals manager Ned Yost said, a judgment call can’t be protested.
And as it turned out, the call was correct. Perez didn’t tag up on a caught ball.
“It was a crazy play,” Hosmer said. “Hat’s off to them for noticing it, and the guy in the dugout for noticing it. It’s like they say about baseball. Something happens every day you don’t really ever see. That’s another one.”