In the top of the seventh inning of their game against the Astros, the Reds were clinging to a one-run lead and had a runner on first base. Joey Votto hit a two-out drive to right field off pitcher Chris Sampson that hit the yellow line at the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Hunter Pence retrieved the ball quickly, and it was ruled a single by first-base umpire Bill Miller.
Votto and first-base coach Billy Hatcher immediately protested, and Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker emerged from the dugout to argue. The Reds thought they heard the ball clank off a front-row seat and felt Votto should have had a two-run home run.
"It hit something, because I heard a 'boom-bam,'" Baker said. "Guys told me it hit a metal arm rest on the seat and came back."
"Apparently there is a pole behind the top of the yellow line," Votto said. "They said it hit that."
All four umpires deliberated for several moments before crew chief Gary Darling went to the umpire's room near the third-base dugout to review the play. Darling returned and upheld Miller's call. Votto had to settle for a long single.
The video evidence was inconclusive.
"There were two looks we had," Darling said after the game. "Neither one gave us clear nor convincing evidence of [anything] other than what we had on the field."
Since the new rule went into effect on Aug. 28, there have been four instances in which a replay has been used. It's the second time it's happened at Minute Maid Park.
Baker grudgingly accepted the replay-aided ruling on the field.
"It wasn't clear enough to overrule it," Baker said. "They at least gave us the courtesy to try to look at it. That's their first time and my first time with it. The umpires were trying to get it right from the best they could see with the angles."
The Reds won by a 2-1 score. All of the runs in the game were scored in the first inning.
"I didn't hear it hit the seats, so I don't think it went over," Michael Bourn said. "That helped us out, but unfortunately we didn't score another run."
All televised MLB games are monitored and staffed by an expert technician and either an umpire supervisor or a former umpire at Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters in New York. A television monitor and a secure telephone link to MLB.com, placed next to the monitor, have been installed at all 30 ballparks.
If the crew chief determines that instant replay review is necessary on a particular disputed home run, he calls the MLB.com technician, who then transmits the most appropriate video footage to the crew chief and the umpire crew on site.
The umpire supervisor or former umpire does not have direct communication with any of the umpires on site, and the decision to reverse a call is at the sole discretion of the crew chief. The standard used by the crew chief when reviewing a play is whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the umpire's decision on the field was incorrect and should be reversed. The use of replay is limited only to home runs: in or out, fair or foul, and fan interference.
"It's not an easy call," Baker said of the Reds' first replay experience. "It wasn't a shoo-in call, but I still thought it was a home run."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.