Neighborhood non-call the 'right call'
Saunders defends ump's ruling that Aybar didn't touch bag
NEW YORK -- Amid a tension-filled American League Championship Series Game 2 that took 13 innings to finish, there were two tight plays on the bases that were made for the various angles that instant replay can offer.
While fans and broadcasters revel in being able to see the plays again and again, the umpires have no such luxury.
In the bottom of the 10th inning in a game the Yankees eventually won, 4-3, the Angels appeared to have turned a clutch double play, thanks to a tailor-made grounder to second by slow-footed catcher Jorge Posada.
However, shortstop Erick Aybar, in his haste to turn the feed from second baseman Maicer Izturis, never did step on the bag. Instead, his two feet were essentially straddling the outskirts of it. Second-base umpire Jerry Layne was spot on in calling Melky Cabrera safe, though Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out to argue the play.
It was one of those "in the neighborhood" plays in which the shortstop seems to get the benefit of the doubt countless times. But Layne didn't get fooled.
"You go on what you see, and just call what you see," Layne said. "That's all. It's not a tough call. You just see it, and then you call it. You don't think about it. It was one of those things where he's a really good shortstop and I was kind of surprised by what I was seeing was there. It was there."
To the Angels' credit, they shook off the missed opportunity, and lefty reliever Darren Oliver got through the rest of the inning unscathed.
"I just assumed it was a double play," said Oliver. "The ball is hit right up the middle like that -- I wasn't really paying attention. I thought Aybar was just going to touch the bag, but obviously, the ump saw something different. It's almost 90 percent of the time that you get that called out. The umpire saw something different. I don't know if he touched it or not -- I didn't see the replay yet -- but we didn't argue too much, so maybe he didn't touch the bag."
Lefty Joe Saunders, who started the game for the Angels, could tell that Layne got it right.
"Jerry Layne, he was right on top of it," Saunders said. "He made the right call. Normally, 99 percent of the time, you're going to get that [out] call. But he just saw something that didn't seem right. He made the right call. Darren did a great job getting out of that inning unscathed."
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Earlier in the game, the Yankees were not so fortunate when a call didn't go their way.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth inning, Yankees captain Derek Jeter hit a grounder back to the box that Saunders grabbed and fired to short for the start of a 1-6-3 double play. Jeter busted it down the line and was called out by first-base umpire Bill Miller, though replays indicated that Jeter beat the throw.
"It was close," Jeter said. "Sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don't. It was just one of those things."
If Jeter had been ruled safe, Johnny Damon would have come up with runners on the corners and one out, instead of a man on third and two outs. Damon struck out swinging, but perhaps his approach would have been different if Jeter had been called safe.
"From a pitcher's standpoint, I thought he was out," Saunders said. "I don't know if on the replay it showed that he was safe. It looked to me that the ball just beat him."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.