SEATTLE -- Umpire Jeff Nelson admitted that he got the call wrong on a double play turned by the Rangers in the second inning of Friday night's game against the Mariners, a 9-5 Texas win.
Nelson, speaking to a pool reporter on Saturday, said he thought Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland had caught a return throw from shortstop Elvis Andrus to complete the double play. He found out later that pitcher Justin Grimm had caught the throw and was not on the first-base bag.
"When you umpire that play, your focus goes to the bag, and you watch the foot touch the bag and listen for the ball hitting the mitt," Nelson said. "In this case, I ruled the ball was caught by the first baseman, and the ball was actually caught by the pitcher. The pitcher kind of came out of nowhere on that play. I didn't pick that up. Obviously, looking at the replays, I wish I had."
The play occurred after Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak led off the inning with singles, putting runners on first and second. Jesus Sucre then hit a grounder at Moreland, who threw to second base trying for a double play.
Moreland and Grimm both went to cover first base. Moreland got there first, but the throw from Andrus was to the inside of the bag more toward Grimm, who was a good three feet off the bag. Grimm's glove nearly overlapped with Moreland's when he caught that ball, making it hard to see in real time.
Nelson wasn't the only one to miss it, both clubs' television broadcasts also thought the double play was made until they saw what clearly happened on replay.
"I saw a replay after the game," Nelson said. "The first baseman for Texas told me a couple of innings later that the pitcher had caught the ball and not him. That's when I had an indication maybe the pitcher had actually caught the ball."
As far as his reaction when he heard the pitcher caught the ball, Nelson said, "I'll kind of leave that up to everyone else to figure out. But we're competitive and we like to get things right, and when we don't, we're just like anybody else. We want to get things right."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge argued on the play, but not for the right reason. He didn't realize that Grimm had caught the ball. Wedge was arguing that Moreland's foot was off the bag, and the argument did not last long. Wedge didn't find out what happened until later.
"You can't hide anything anymore," Wedge said. "We've got so many cameras at the ballpark, so many angles. So much more media. And it's instant -- right now."
Nelson didn't get any consolation that Wedge was among many who were fooled by the play.
"Eric was very professional in how he came out," Nelson said. "But there's never any consolation in a thing like this, because it's your job to get it right. We're competitive, too, and we want to get things right. So I'd love to say it makes you feel better, but you're angry just like everybody else that you ruled otherwise."
The other three umpires also did not see Grimm catch the ball. If they had, one of them could have intervened and overruled Nelson. That didn't happen.
"If they have something for me, they won't hesitate, because I've worked with these guys a lot," Nelson said. "They won't hesitate to give me assistance if they have something that can help me with that. At the same time, they also have other assignments during that play because of the nature of the play with multiple runners."
The double play left Ibanez on third, and Brandon Ryan's RBI double minimized the call's impact, but the mistake helped cut the rally short and the Rangers ended up with a victory.
"It's something that's going to happen," Moreland said. "I don't think it fooled just him. It fooled a lot of people. Given the situation and the play, it was a tough call for him."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less