Scorer stands by call that ended Penny's no-no
Professionalism praised; Inge says he should've made play
DETROIT -- The box score shows Brad Penny with seven innings of one-hit ball Saturday. The reactions of those who watched the game, and the lone hit, show just how difficult it is to be an official scorer in Major League Baseball.
Official scorer Ron Kleinfelter saw Brent Morel's sixth-inning grounder to third -- and more specifically, Brandon Inge's attempt to throw him out at first -- and felt it was a base hit. So did the other two people who handle official scoring duties over the course of the season at Comerica Park, who happened to be in the press box as well. A review of the play after Saturday's 9-0 Tigers win over the White Sox did not change the opinion.
"I think there was extraordinary effort there," Kleinfelter said afterward.
By rule, that's the judgment he has to apply. Unless he feels like a reasonable effort would've resulted in an out, it's a base hit.
The boos coming from the announced crowd of 35,227 in the ballpark as soon as Kleinfelter announced the call suggested most of them disagreed. Of course, many of them undoubtedly would've liked to see a no-hitter. Many of them also have watched Inge make highlight plays at third base for years.
FOX Network broadcasters Thom Brennaman and Mark Grace initially suggested they felt it was an error. Tigers radio broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Jim Price immediately believed it to be a hit, before the official ruling was announced.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland agreed with Kleinfelter's call. Moreover, he agreed with the way he reached it.
"A hit," Leyland said. "I really give the guy credit, because a lot of times they wait until the inning's over to see what happens. I don't think that's right. I think the guy did a great job. I think he put it up there as soon as he looked at the replay. ... I would certainly agree with it."
Penny also seemed to agree with it.
"It was a tough play," he said. "He makes 99 percent of the plays hit to him. I'll never have a problem with that."
Inge agreed that it was a difficult play. He said third-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth told him that just three third basemen in the league could make that throw. Inge still felt that he's one of the guys who should make that play.
"I [don't care] if they change it to an error or a hit or whatever," Inge said. "I'm telling you I should have made the play. It's not an average play, but I should've made the play."
Morel didn't get a good look at the play, of course; he was busy running down the line to try to beat the play to first base. Juan Pierre saw it from the on-deck circle and agreed with the call.
"It's not a routine play," Pierre said. "I know Inge over there makes a lot of plays look routine. From my vantage point, that looked like a hit and Morel runs well down the line."
Therein lies the challenge in scoring. What might seem like a normal play for Inge, who has been making backhanded plays down the line for years, is anything but normal for most third basemen around the league.
"My foot slipped a little bit when I went to plant, and maybe that had something to do with it," Inge said of his off-line throw. "But I don't like using anything as an excuse. I still had plenty to get it over there. My aim was slightly off."
Put that play in the course of a 5-3 game, and it doesn't generate much debate. In a no-hitter, it gets magnified. But the situation doesn't change the rule.
"I'll take the hit," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's one of my players. We need that one, I guess."
That doesn't mean Guillen agreed or disagreed with the call. The man who can seem like he has an opinion on everything sometimes stayed out of this one, which says plenty about the challenge of making the call.
"Well, it can go either way," Guillen said. "I think it was a tough play. Very tough play, but I think the way the guy was throwing, it was a tough decision."
It's one Kleinfelter had to make.
"I stand by my call," he said. "It's my call to apply the rules."
It was the kind of either-or play that many dread deciding an historic game upon. However, it took that kind of play for the White Sox to get a base hit, the way they've been struggling offensively lately.
Hours after Justin Verlander retired the first 11 White Sox he faced on a cold, rainy Friday night, Penny had a gorgeous spring afternoon behind him as he did the same. This time, however, Carlos Quentin broke up perfection with a hit-by-pitch, rather than a home run. The full-count delivery from Penny hit Quentin on his right arm, giving Chicago its first runner on base.
Every other Chicago hitter through five innings was retired, and just two of them hit Penny's pitches well enough to force the defense to make a play. Austin Jackson made a running grab in right-center field to chase down Gordon Beckham's second-inning liner, and Will Rhymes made a diving stop and spin behind first base to rob Alex Rios of a fifth-inning ground-ball single. Penny threw just 58 pitches through five innings.
"A no-hitter, it takes skill, but there's a lot of luck involved in it," said Penny, who admitted he didn't expect Jackson to make that catch. "I never expect to [throw one]. That's not one of my expectations. I need to go out and make pitches and get outs."
Once Morel broke up the no-no, Penny gave up his first walk of the day to Pierre, then recovered to preserve the shutout bid. Then Penny, who has never thrown a no-hitter, went to console Inge.
"He was mad," Penny said. "I told him, 'Don't worry. I'll give up another hit.'"
He didn't, but that didn't change his sense of humor about it.
"I'm still laughing about it," Penny said, "because he takes so much pride in his defense."