To Inge, phantom HBP a critical non-call

To Inge, phantom HBP a critical non-call

MINNEAPOLIS -- Brandon Inge ended his season one hit-by-pitch shy of the American League lead. It wasn't finishing second in that category that bothered him on Tuesday night. It was the end of the season, and whether a 12th-inning pitch thrown by Bobby Keppel which grazed his jersey might have extended it.

After all of the run-scoring opportunities the Tigers had over the course of Tuesday's dramatic American League Central tiebreaker -- a 6-5 loss to the Twins in 12 innings -- it's the last of them that will sit with Detroit for a while. For the most part, it had nothing to do with the chance of a hit, but the chance of getting hit.

"I want a hit as much as the next guy, but when it's that important, it hit my shirt," Inge said of the first pitch he took from Keppel, thrown with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th inning. "I'm not going to lie."

Inge isn't going to say that was the difference in the game, nor was manager Jim Leyland. But they were going to point out their difference with home-plate umpire Randy Marsh, and the chance that they missed.

Inge stepped to the plate in the 12th after Keppel had intentionally walked Ryan Raburn with one out to load the bases and set up a potential double play. Left with no margin for error, Keppel threw a first-pitch fastball that came inside on Inge, just under chest level.

Inge looked back at Marsh and moved as if he was readying to take first. Marsh called him back, having called it a ball.

Inge, usually patient enough to avoid an argument, took issue.

"It hit my shirt, period," Inge said. "I don't lie about things like that. I'm not going to try to weasel my way on base."

Leyland soon followed to pick up his case, but he wasn't trying to change Marsh's mind. He went out essentially to try to get a second opinion from second-base umpire Jerry Layne. It was a long shot, but it was worth a shot.

"There really wasn't anything I could do," Leyland said. "I asked Randy right away if he could ask the second-base umpire, and he said no, definitely not. That's his call. I understand that. That's hard to put that on a second-base umpire to make that call.

"I don't know if the second-base umpire saw it or not. But there was no doubt in [Marsh's] mind, and the replay kind of confirms that it did hit him."

Indeed, while Leyland was pleading his case with Layne, a national television audience was watching a super-slow-motion replay that suggested that the ball grazed Inge's jersey. By rule, that would count as a hit-by-pitch, and the Tigers would have taken a 6-5 lead.

It has actually happened to Inge at least twice this season.

"Actually, every time I've been hit in the shirt, it's been caught," Inge said. "Because it makes two distinct, pretty good noises. Now, I will give him the benefit that this is one of the loudest places I've ever been in my life."

Marsh did watch a replay after the game, but he wasn't nearly as certain as Leyland or Inge.

"I did not have the ball hitting him," Marsh told a pool reporter. "We looked at replays, too. And the replays that we've looked at, to be honest with you, were inconclusive. I did not see a replay that showed that it hit him."

Once the appeal didn't work, Inge -- hoping to gather himself -- asked for time, which was granted. He worked his way to a 2-2 count before hitting a shot back through the middle that second baseman Nick Punto fielded and fired home for a fielder's choice at the plate.

The rest is history.

"I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that, because it sounds like sour grapes," Leyland said when asked after the game. "Still, the fact of the matter is it did hit him, so it's a huge play."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.