Tabata not popular in DC after disputed HBP

Tabata not popular in DC after disputed HBP

WASHINGTON -- Forward-planning Clint Hurdle penciled in his Pirates lineup versus Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez days ago. When he posted that lineup in ink Sunday morning, Jose Tabata was still in it.

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Hurdle never considered changing it.

"I would not even think about it. What for?" the manager said, affably, before the Pirates' 9-2 loss in the finale.

• Tabata spoils Scherzer's bid for perfect game

The fascinating ingredient, of course, was Tabata having spoiled Max Scherzer's perfect game early Saturday evening by letting a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth hit him on the protective sleeve covering his left elbow. That development instantly made Tabata unpopular among critical Nationals fans, who thus were given ample opportunity to vent on the outfielder, who made only his fifth start of the season.

Sure enough, Tabata was lustily booed by the sellout crowd of 40,015 before each of his four at-bats, and whenever a ball was hit in his direction in right field.

Tabata breaks up perfect game

"I knew the boos were coming, but I prepared myself mentally to play baseball and do my job," said Tabata, who went 1-for-4 and whose flawless game in the field included a diving catch. "Sorry for the loss, but tomorrow's the next day.

"That's baseball, and you can't do anything about it," Tabata added, addressing the boos.

His reception actually might have been muted by the Nationals' ambush of Pirates righty Charlie Morton. By the time Tabata's first at-bat came, the home team was up, 9-0.

Asked whether any of the Washington players had said anything to him about Saturday's coda, Tabata shook his head and said, "No, nobody say anything to me. That's very professional on the other side."

"It's fans being fans. I'm not surprised at all," Hurdle said of the public reaction. "I appreciate the fans. At the same time -- watch how the game is played.

"Watch the video tape," added Hurdle, implying that Tabata had not done anything out of the ordinary. "You guys can take it wherever you want, but watch the tape. We try to create drama sometimes, and drama can get created off the field. We do live in a very reactive society."

The point of contention obviously is whether Tabata had tried to avoid Scherzer's flat slider. Had he not, in plate umpire Mike Muchlinski's judgment, he could have been denied the base and Scherzer would have remained perfect.

That Rule 6.08 does get enforced occasionally. One doesn't even have to cite some infamous and faded historical examples. Russell Martin, who also habitually leans over the plate, was hit by pitches 23 times during his 2013-14 seasons with the Pirates. It would have been 24 - but on one occasion, the plate umpire said he had not tried to avoid the pitch and made him continue the at-bat.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.