CLEVELAND -- While the Tigers tried to put up a battle against the Indians on Wednesday with Cleveland's historic winning streak on the line, Detroit's 5-3 loss featured an ongoing verbal battle between the Tigers and home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott, who ejected both catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus for arguing balls and strikes in the third inning.
Both said that their pitcher, Buck Farmer, wasn't getting the same calls on borderline pitches as Indians starter Mike Clevinger.
"I know there's a little bit of a fine line when it comes to balls and strikes," McCann said after the game. "But all I said was, 'I want the same strike zone.' I don't care about the situation, their winning streak, where we are in the standings. We deserve the same pitches called strikes that they're getting called strikes."
The ejections happened after Cleveland slugger Jay Bruce battled out of an 0-2 count to draw a two-out walk, but the back-and-forth between Wolcott and the Tigers had been building over the first few innings. Miguel Cabrera, who struck out on a called third strike in the top of the inning, was jawing from the dugout with Wolcott after Jeimer Candelario was called out on a pitch to end the inning.
"I just think from the get-go, there were borderline pitches," McCann said. "There was a borderline pitch called on me in my first at-bat. There were borderline pitches called on Cabrera for strike three, a borderline pitch called on Candelario for strike three. ... If it's a strike to us, it has to be a strike to them. And in my opinion, I didn't feel like that was the case."
McCann had two pitches called on the outside corner before chasing a curveball out of the strike zone to end the first inning with runners on second and third. Candelario took a fastball at the knees around the outside corner to end the third with two runners on. Clevinger struck out six batters through his first three innings, half of them on called third strikes.
Once Bruce drew ball four on a fastball just off the outside corner, McCann said something that drew a near-immediate ejection from Wolcott.
"He said he'd had enough of me arguing balls and strikes," McCann said. "And I said I've had enough of not getting strikes. And that's when he threw me out."
Ausmus came out from the dugout to try to separate McCann from Wolcott, then he was ejected.
It was the first career ejection for McCann and the 16th career ejection as a manager for Ausmus, six of which have happened this season. Bench coach Gene Lamont took over as manager for the rest of the game.
John Hicks replaced McCann, making his first appearance behind the plate since Sept. 1. Farmer threw seven consecutive balls after that, walking Carlos Santana to load the bases before falling into a 3-0 count against Yandy Diaz. One of those pitches crossed up Hicks and hit Wolcott just above his left chest.
"I called a fastball away," Hicks said. "[Farmer] shook. I called a slider away. He went with it. He thought I put down fastball."
Wolcott was eventually helped up and stayed in the game. First-base umpire Brian O'Nora had words with the Tigers' dugout on his way back to his position after checking on Wolcott.
"Obviously, it looks bad right after Brad and Mac get tossed, but it's bases loaded, we're trying to win a baseball game," Hicks said. "Any thoughts of us trying to do that on purpose are just ridiculous."
Ausmus was in his office in the Tigers' clubhouse at that point when he heard the Cleveland television broadcast say that pitch could raise some eyebrows.
"To imply that was intentional is, first of all, a lie," Ausmus said. "If any player intentionally tried to hurt an umpire on this team, we'd deal with that severely. ... But for anyone to imply that was intentional, it's just completely wrong. And they're out of line saying that, quite frankly."
Farmer reacted similarly, going on Twitter after the game.
Hate that people think I would hit the umpire intentionally... I have more respect for the game than that #notthattypeofplayer
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.