PHOENIX -- Instant replay came to Chase Field, and to a full slate of 15 games around Major League Baseball, on Friday night. And just as with Thursday's three-game inauguration, there was no call to use it. Umpires can now utilize video replay to determine a contested home run for these three reasons: fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark and fan interference. But once again, they had no occasion to try Friday. The Chase, with its nooks, crannies and yellow lines meandering from foul pole to foul pole, is the perfect ballpark where replay could make a real difference. Fans can also reach out of the front rows of the left-field bleachers and interfere with a fly ball.
"At the end of the day, the hope with respect to any call is that you get it right," Diamondbacks veteran first baseman Tony Clark said. "In an effort to get a call right that can change the outcome of a game and is a difficult call to make with respect to the asymmetrical ballparks and fan participation and how close they are, I'm hopeful the decision to use instant replay is going to help make that play. "The hope is there are less questionable calls and less concerns down the stretch, when a run or two could determine a pennant race." The D-backs, who defeated the reeling Dodgers, 9-3, certainly are in one against their Los Angeles counterparts as they spar for bragging rights in the National League West. So are a number of other teams, battling around the country for division titles and Wild Card berths in both leagues. In the 15 contests, 20 homers were hit without debate -- including three in Tampa Bay, where the Rays clobbered the Orioles, 14-3, and three more in Cincinnati, where the Reds upended the Giants, 11-7. Three games were without homers, including the game in Phoenix. Perhaps the most significant homer of the night came in the ninth inning at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, as Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran led his club to a come-from-behind, 5-4, victory over the Marlins with a grand slam. The homer, which had a ripple effect on the NL East race, was hit to right field far away from the foul pole and at least a dozen rows into the orange seats.
Oddly enough, games at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium were homerless on the night when instant replay was first available in both hallowed edifices. In the house that is closing in the Bronx at the end of the season, the Yanks nipped Toronto, 2-1. Further north in the Fens, the Red Sox didn't need a bolt to whip the White Sox, 8-0. The old Yankee Stadium, of course, is famous for the interference homer hit by Derek Jeter against the Orioles in the 1996 American League Championship Series that was seemingly deflected just below the top of the blue right-field wall by then 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier. Without replay, Jeter was awarded the homer and the Yanks went on to win the pennant. With it, who knows? Now, the umpires will get a second glance, just as they would have in the fourth inning Friday night when Johnny Damon's shot down the right-field line landed just beneath the foul pole on the extended white line that runs down the fence. It went for a clean, uncontested single. "I'm hoping we don't need it," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was a catcher on that 1996 team, which went on to defeat Atlanta in the World Series. "May there be some little kinks in it early on? Possibly. To me, I think it's the right decision, and I'm actually all in favor of it. It may take a little bit longer in the beginning than we want, but I'm sure it will get ironed out. Eventually it will go really quickly." Two weeks ago, as MLB was tying up the loose ends on launching the new system, Commissioner Bud Selig said the use of replay on a limited basis would indeed be limited. He mused that only 16 games, up to that point, probably would have been affected. "I shouldn't say only, 16 is a lot," Selig said. "They may have determined the outcome of 16 games." Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin is tickled that he might now avoid incidents like the one that occurred on June 9 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park in the second inning of a game between the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Third baseman Mark Reynolds whacked a fly ball toward the right-field bleachers that was originally ruled a home run, even though a fan reached out and caught the ball seemingly below the top of the fence. After Pittsburgh manager John Russell protested, the umpires changed the call and ruled it a double. Melvin was then ejected from the game for arguing with home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg. "They called it a home run and then pulled it back," Melvin said after losing the game, 5-3. "They said that the fan reached over. My opinion was the first-base umpire got it right. The first-base umpire is closest to the play and my opinion was he got it right, and I don't know why they overturned it." At the Chase, if a replay had been needed Friday night, crew chief Wally Bell would have had to take a short trip to the left of the visitor's first-base dugout and deep into the set-in photographer's well. Once there, he would've opened up a metal cabinet and used his new "Bat Phone" to call either an expert technician or umpire supervisor at MLB.com headquarters in New York to view the applicable replay clips on the flatscreen TV in front of him. It would then have been up to his discretion whether to overturn the original call. Melvin, who was tossed from Friday night's game, too, is ecstatic that replay is now in vogue. "I've been a proponent for the home run [calls]," he said. "I've had quite a few games affected by that over the course of the last three or four years or so, so I'm all for it. That's a call you have to get right. I would think if it works pretty well, they would consider doing some other things."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Steve Gilbert and Brian Hoch contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.