9th confirms: It's a game of inches

9th confirms: It's a game of inches

MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar saw the umpires rule his double dead and couldn't believe it. Jett Bandy watched Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez make a game-saving catch and felt the same way.

A few inches here or there in the ninth inning, and maybe Thursday's outcome at Miller Park would have been different. But the Giants scored a split of a four-game series with a 10-inning, 9-5 win over the Brewers that was miles closer than the final score indicated.

"We talk about tough games every night," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "It's part of the DNA of this team. We'll recover from them. We have recovered from them. It's not going to be easy. I think we've pretty much declared that.

"So, enjoy the ride."

The bottom of the ninth inning was a thrill ride all itself, starting with Eric Sogard's solo home run off a Giants closer, Mark Melancon, who had pitched 35 times against Milwaukee in his career without serving up a single long ball.

Sogard's solo home run

That cut the Giants' lead to 5-4 before Eric Thames walked to bring Aguilar to the plate, representing the tying run. Aguilar pulled a double to left field, where it briefly lodged in a gap in the padding at the base of the wall. Left fielder Orlando Calixte played the baseball as if it were live, quickly returning it to the infield, and Aguilar took third when the relay throw bounced past the catcher.

"I just saw Thames was running. I was so happy about it because we tied the game," Aguilar said.

Not so fast, said plate umpire Ed Hickox. He'd noticed the ball lodge in the padding, and immediately called the play dead.

Hickox ordered Thames back to third base and Aguilar back to second while Brewers manager Craig Counsell raced out to protest.

Ground-rule double prevents run

"They changed that rule, if I remember it right," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Even if a ball is lodged and you go and get it, it's a dead ball. It was looked at and of course, runners had to go back. That just changed not too long ago. It covers you a little bit. It's a tough play for an outfielder. You throw your hands up and they say you can't do that."

Counsell understood the rules, but used his challenge anyway. Replay confirmed the call on the field.

"Once the umpire kills it, it doesn't matter what happened," Counsell said. "He killed the play, I challenged to say it's not lodged. [The replay center in] New York said it was lodged. That was it. The umpire can kill the play. Once the umpire kills it, it's over."

That's exactly right, said Hickox, who noted that an outfielder is not required to throw up his hands in order for the call to be made.

"No, not if the umpire sees it," Hickox explained. "If a fielder throws his hands up and we don't see it, we will continue to go out there until we can see it lodged or see it not lodged. So the fact of him throwing his hands up is not really the issue. It's 'Did the umpire see it lodged or not?'

"Any umpire who sees a ball gets lodged can kill it. Now that there's replay -- say we didn't see it or we left it alive. Well, Bochy would have challenged it and it would have been flipped then, because the call was 'confirmed.'"

So, either way, the outcome would have been the same, according to Hickox.

"Welcome to the world of replay," he said.

Thames eventually did score, on Travis Shaw's tying single. Had Aguilar been at third base, as he was on the original play, it might have been game over.

Shaw's clutch game-tying single

But Counsell didn't buy into that line of thinking.

"They would have walked guys. It would have been a completely different inning," Counsell said. "You can't assume Shaw's single."

As it played out, the Brewers' rally fizzled, thanks in large part to Nunez's catch and another matter of a few inches making a world of difference.

With Aguilar at third, no outs and the teams tied, 5-5, Domingo Santana struck out, Bandy lined out to a leaping Nunez, and Hernan Perez grounded out to first base. The Giants scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning to win the game.

Giants put up four in the 10th

The Nunez play was a game-saver. Bandy went down for a curveball and pulled it down the line. Nunez went up and pulled the baseball down.

"I saw every single thing of it. Every bit of it," Bandy said. "It was a good play. It's baseball."

"It felt like new life," said Giants outfielder Austin Slater.

The Giants made the most of that new life.

"We needed a break at that point," Bochy said. "It's not really a break. It's just good defense and it shows you how athletic Nunez is. I think once he got out of it, he said it was a sense of relief and the guys were pretty fired up."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. Carson Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.