Missed call: Curve claim umpire wrong on key play

Replay almost certainly is coming to the major leagues next year, but it probably will never make its way to the minor leagues. Not all ballparks have cameras – or enough cameras – and there’s virtually no cost-effective way to make it uniform in more than 175 parks around the minors.

So whatever the umpire sees, that’s the way it’s going to remain in the minor leagues.

What the third base umpire saw on a key play in Tuesday’s game between the Curve and Reading appeared to be wrong, according to not only Altoona manager Carlos Garcia but also on the in-house replay system at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The play cost the Curve the first run of the game, and Altoona’s defense gave Reading a gift run later on in a 2-0 loss before 5,297 fans.

“Definitely in my mind he blew that call,” Garcia said of the umpire. “There’s no doubt.”

The game was scoreless in the sixth when, with the bases loaded and one out, Reading’s Sebastian Valle hit a fly ball to center field. The Curve’s Gregory Polanco caught it and fired to third base as Jim Murphy was tagging and trying to get there.

Altoona third baseman Adalberto Santos caught the throw and, as Garcia put it, “The whole stadium knows he tagged him.”

Santos said he tagged him.

“Yeah,” he said.

But third base umpire Joseph Born called Murphy safe. After the game, Born would not comment on the record about the play or why he made that call.

The intriguing part of the play occurred at home plate as Reading’s Maikel Franco tagged from third and was coming home on the sacrifice fly. Franco, though, did not hustle to the plate, looked back over his shoulder to see the throw coming in, then ran hard when he realized there would be a play at third base.

Watching the action live, Franco was in his final stride to the plate but had not yet touched it when Santos was putting the tag on Murphy. Had the play been ruled an out at third, it would have been the third out of the inning and the run would not have counted, keeping the game scoreless.

There was no replay of Franco getting close to the plate to verify that he had not yet touched it. And therein lies the problem with replay in the minor leagues, that even a high-tech operation like the Curve with four cameras shooting the game can’t catch all the action.

Home plate umpire Chris Gonzalez would not comment on where the runner was in relation to the plate after the game.

“Their job is to try to call the best game they can call,” Garcia said of the umpires. “Inconsistency, it will happen. But we ask for being consistent and be in the spot that you’re supposed to be to give you the best opportunity to make a call.

“Listen, I understand they’re part of the game, and they will make a mistake,” the manager added. “We’re human, everybody does. But we just want consistency, that’s all. We’re not trying to be harassing those guys every night.”

That play didn’t lose the game for the Curve, but it did result in starting pitcher David Bromberg suffering a tough-luck defeat. That unearned run – Franco reached base on an error by Santos to start the inning – was the only run Bromberg (6-10) allowed in 5 2/3 innings as he continues to put up terrific numbers as the season nears completion (see covering the bases).

Reading’s Ryan Demmin (1-0) won his Double-A debut with seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits. Mike Nesseth pitched the final two innings for his ninth save.

The Curve gave the Fightin Phils an insurance run in the eighth when second baseman Jarek Cunningham bobbled a tailor-made double play ball. He recovered to get the force out at second base, but the potential third out of the inning eluded the Curve on the throw to first, with Matt Tolbert coming home from third for a 2-0 Reading lead.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: Reading LHP Ryan Demmin pitched seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut.

Key play: An apparent blown call by the third base umpire allowed Reading to score a big run in the sixth inning for a 1-0 lead.

Key stat: The Curve have dropped back to 11 games below .500 with only 13 games to play.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 6th: Franco reached on Santos error, scored on Valle sacrifice fly (0-1).

Top 8th: Tolbert singled, scored on Cartwright fielder’s choice (0-2).