DETROIT -- One way or another, Jason Donald was headed for highlight history. The only question, as he stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth Wednesday night at Comerica Park, was whether Donald would be shown breaking up Armando Galarraga's bid to pitch the 21st complete game in Major League history or capping it. A little bit of both, as it turned out.
Donald, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm promoted from Triple-A Columbus just two weeks ago, came up to bat obviously knowing what was on the line. He tried to focus on the fact that the Indians were trailing, 3-0, and not completely dead in the water, though it was clear that Galarraga's perfection was the most pressing matter on the table. "It's pretty crazy," Donald said of coming to the plate in that situation. "I was really just trying to focus as much as I possibly could. Everybody knew what was on the line and the pressure that was going on."
The pressure was arguably more on the 25-year-old Donald than Galarraga, who had almost effortlessly retired the Indians for 8 2/3 innings and needed only to dispose of the Tribe shortstop to become the first Tigers pitcher in history to toss a perfecto. It was a 1-1 slider that Donald took a swipe at, sending a grounder toward the hole between first and second. First baseman Miguel Cabrera went to get it. "When I saw Cabrera move to his right for the ball, I knew it was going to be a foot race with the pitcher," Donald said. "I just put my head down and ran as hard as I could. I knew it was in that area to where it's one of those tricky plays that you work on all the time. The second baseman will take it or the first baseman will come over to take it. So when I hit it, I knew I had a chance to beat it out." Donald did have a chance. The kid can run. He had swiped 10 bags in 37 games at Columbus prior to his callup, and his hustle has already been evident in his short time in the big leagues. But could he really beat out this play? In this situation? The answer ultimately had to be determined by first-base umpire Jim Joyce in a split-second. Cabrera fielded the ball and fired to a streaking Galarraga, who stepped on the bag as Donald crossed it. Who was first to the bag? Joyce ruled it was Donald, and the crowd of 17,738 first gasped in shock, then hissed and booed in disapproval. Donald, meanwhile, smacked his hands together, then placed them atop his helmet. His incredulity was evident. Even Donald couldn't believe he was called safe. "It was just so bang-bang," he said. "I thought for sure I was going to get called out, because of everything that was at stake." Donald, who will go down as 1-for-3 on the night, was told that Joyce had watched a replay and admitted his call was wrong. If Donald agreed, he didn't say. "I don't know," he said. "Everything just happened so fast. I just put my head down and ran as fast as I could." And he ran his way right into a highlight for the ages.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.