DETROIT -- Safe or out? Challenge or don't challenge?
Those were the prevalent questions circling the bottom of the ninth of the Tigers' 2-1 walk-off victory over the White Sox on Friday at Comerica Park. Nick Castellanos opened the frame with a sinking line drive to right off reliever Zach Duke that Avisail Garcia couldn't quite corral.
Castellanos went by the Tigers' pregame scouting report that Garcia does not have an accurate throwing arm, so the extra base should be taken when possible, and he tried to stretch the single into a double. The throw from Garcia to shortstop Alexei Ramirez easily beat Castellanos, but second-base umpire Brian O'Nora ruled Ramirez missed the tag, which left the winning run at second.
Ramirez, speaking through translator and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo, strongly disagreed with O'Nora's call. Castellanos understandably supported the decision.
"It was clear for me. Yes, I felt it, and I am 100 percent sure I tagged him," Ramirez said. "[O'Nora] just missed the play. I am sure that I tagged him, and I think he was in the wrong spot to see the play. For me, it is clear, and I feel it. I tagged him."
"I was happy he called me safe, other than the fact I was safe, but a lot of umpires, if the ball beats you there, they'll take it for granted and call you out," Castellanos said. "The ball beat me there, but I didn't feel a tag. When he called me safe, I was thrilled he stuck with the play."
Pinch-runner Andrew Romine was sacrificed to third by Alex Avila, and with the infield in, Jose Iglesias poked a single to center. White Sox manager Robin Ventura thought about walking Iglesias to set up a double play, but they actually got the needed ground ball in the wrong location.
A bigger issue for Ventura was challenging the play at second. Ventura came out of the dugout after the call, with Ramirez strongly objecting, but Ventura said that he received a safe ruling from his video crew and went back in the dugout. The Tigers entered Romine into the game, with that move basically meaning the end of the previous play and no challenge being possible when Ventura came back out moments later to chat with crew chief Jeff Kellogg, per a team official.
Ventura could have challenged the play regardless.
"You think about doing it anyway if you get a maybe," said Ventura. "Yeah, you think about doing it. I didn't even get a maybe. You have to go with what your guys are going with. You could just go out and challenge it anyway, but when you get a 'He missed him,' you don't challenge it."
Jeff Samardzija, who pitched brilliantly against Tigers starter David Price for eight innings, saw the play and thought Castellanos was out. When asked if he was surprised there was no review, Samardzija replied, "That's not my call."
"Maybe they missed the play the first time on the video, but I am 100 percent [sure] I tagged him," Ramirez said. "If you are going to lose, you don't want to lose in this way."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. Chris Vannini contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.