Orioles see safe call as way off base

Sidelight

Missed double play sets stage for Angels' big inning

May 21, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Umpire Tim Welke and Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick were in agreement on one important point last night: Bordick's foot touched second base as a second-inning play unfolded. The gray area, which turned to black for the Orioles, was whether he did so before taking the throw from Delino DeShields.

Welke, who was working at second, ruled Bordick off the bag in what turned into the game's most crucial moment. Rather than get through the inning unscathed, the Orioles surrendered four runs to the Anaheim Angels in a 6-4 loss at Camden Yards.

Garret Anderson led off with a double to right and Todd Greene was hit by a pitch from Orioles starter Jason Johnson. Chris Pritchett sent a slow roller to DeShields, who flipped to Bordick at second to begin an apparent double play. But after Bordick released the ball, Welke motioned Greene safe and waved his arms to indicate the shortstop was off the base.

Bordick snapped his head in Welke's direction and pointed to second as manager Ray Miller raced from the dugout. Rather than having a runner at third and two outs, the Angels had two in scoring position, one out and Troy Glaus at the plate. A walk loaded the bases, and after Johnson struck out Matt Walbeck for what would have been the last out, Andy Sheets tormented the Orioles for the second straight night by lining a two-run single to right.

The damage grew when catcher Charles Johnson skipped a throw into center field as Sheets stole second, allowing Glaus to score, and Darin Erstad singled to left for a 4-0 lead.

"He said, `I was on top of it and his foot was off the base,' " Miller said of Welke. "If it was off the base, it was off an inch or two and I've seen guys straddle the base and never touch it and get that call."

Welke checked the replay after the game and said his instincts were correct.

"He came across the bag and he did touch it," Welke said, "but he came off the bag and caught the ball. Mike's argument was he touched the bag. I said, `I know you touched it, but you came off it to catch the ball.' It was a close play and I called it the way I saw it."

Fielders usually are given the "assumed" out as long as they're in the vicinity of the bag, which angered Bordick even more. But he wasn't looking for a favor. In his mind, it was a "clean" double play.

"Delino made a great play and we turned a routine double play," he said. "Obviously, I was upset. What's frustrating is it turned into such a big inning. It ended up being the factor in the game.

"I dragged my foot across the base. I don't know how he could have seen it any different."

Said Welke: "He's got to touch the bag. I understand he's trying to get out of the way because he's trying to turn a double play and he's got a guy coming in. It was just a bang-bang play and in my judgment, when he caught the ball he was off the bag.

"After looking at the replay, if I had to call it again I would call it the same way. That was my initial reaction, and if you trust your initial reaction, you're usually right."

To the Orioles, Welke's decision is why Johnson ended up the loser.

"The umpire made the call and that's that," Johnson said. "I thought we had him. The umpire didn't. It just went the other way."

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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