Indians tip their caps to Tigers' Galarraga
Aggressiveness at plate makes near-historic game fast
DETROIT -- It won't go down as a perfect game. But the Indians sure made Armando Galarraga look perfect Wednesday night.The Indians could not have gone down more quickly or more quietly for 8 2/3 innings at Comerica Park, as Galarraga worked his magic and sent the Tribe limping toward a 3-0 loss. But Jason Donald was ruled safe on an infield single to first base with two outs in the ninth, a highly controversial play that led to tension between Tigers players and first-base umpire Jim Joyce in the aftermath. All the Indians could do was consider this ignominy averted. Rather than become the first team in the 110-year-old history of the franchise to be subjected to a perfect game, they were let off the hook on a play that Joyce admitted he blew.
But even though this will go down as merely a one-hitter for Galarraga, the fact remains that the Indians made him work for just 88 pitches and barely mounted much of a threat to reach base, let alone score."I don't want to take anything away from the kid," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "He pitched great. But there were some innings where we could have been a little more patient chasing balls down and away early in the count. But that's what you create when you're throwing so many strikes. You create the illusion to the guys that you are throwing the ball right on the knees, and they go for it. So he deserves all the credit." Aside from the immediately infamous play at first in the ninth -- a play sure to lead to vocal proponents for instant replay -- Galarraga only relied heavily on his defense twice. The first time came with two outs in the fifth, when Russell Branyan hit a comebacker to the mound that struck Galarraga in the foot and landed near third baseman Brandon Inge, who fired to first for the final out. "It had a chance," Branyan said. "It kicked right to Inge. Maybe if I was a little faster." In the ninth, Mark Grudzielanek lifted a high fly to deep center that looked like his first extra-base hit of the season in the making. Instead, rookie Austin Jackson chased it down and made a running catch on the track to preserve the perfect game. "Great catch," Grudzielanek said. "I didn't think he had a shot. I hit that as good as I could hit it. It was too high. He made an awesome catch." Other than that, Galarraga worked in blink-and-you-miss-it fashion all night. The Indians, who came in with the third-lowest team batting average (.246) in the league, barely made him sweat. Just eight balls escaped the infield. "You've got to tip your cap to that guy," Branyan said. "He came out throwing the ball. I'm sure he's proud of the way he was throwing. He was throwing the ball with a lot of sink to it." Sink and substance. Galarraga mainly relied on his fastball the first time through the order. As the game wore on, he began to fool the Indians with his slider. "I think our hitters were looking for that slider early in the game and never saw it until late," Acta said. "He did a good job keeping the ball down, every one of them, and made our guys pound the ball into the ground the whole night." Sometimes, he made them look plain silly. Like in the seventh, when he needed just six pitches to retire Crowe on a grounder to second, Shin-Soo Choo on a fly ball to center and Austin Kearns on a grounder to short. Or in the eighth, when he got ahead of Peralta in a 1-2 count, then got Peralta to chase a low slider at least a foot off the plate. "We swung too much early in the count," Peralta said. "We made his work really quick for him." This game, which took all of one hour and 44 minutes, was the quickest one played by a Tribe team since a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays on June 6, 1982, that also lasted 1:44. Fausto Carmona played his part, giving the Indians eight strong innings in which he didn't walk a batter. But the pace was set by Galarraga, who befuddled the bats and became the first pitcher to toss a complete-game one-hitter against the Tribe since Oakland's Cory Lidle on Aug. 21, 2002. It will go down as a one-hitter because of Joyce and, to a certain extent, first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Donald hit a grounder to Cabrera's right, and Cabrera opted to field it, rather than retreating to his position and letting second baseman Carlos Guillen field it and toss it to him. In Acta's estimation, what Cabrera did was a no-no. "I hope our guys learned a lesson," Acta said, "because we've been preaching to our first basemen, starting in Spring Training, that a soft ball to your right, you break to the bag and try to take the pitcher out of the play. Nothing against you going for the ball, but it's an easier play than using the pitcher in the play. You've got to hit a moving target and time everything." That said, Cabrera fired a perfect strike to Galarraga's glove, and replays showed Galarraga beat Donald to the bag. Even Joyce admitted as much after the game. "You never want that call in that situation, ever in your lifetime," Branyan said. "Jim saw it and called it like he saw it. He didn't let the nature of the game dictate how he was going to call it. You've got to respect that." The Tigers, though, let their feelings be known. They berated Joyce on the field after Trevor Crowe grounded into the final out of the game. As for the Indians, they didn't want to address the topic much. "It was pretty close," Acta said. "It was one of those plays that, unless you see it in slow motion, you can't tell. It's the human eye. Sometimes they're not going to get it right." Everybody, though, could agree that it was a shame Galarraga's bid for perfection was decided on such a close and controversial play. Because while this won't go down as a perfect game, Galarraga's dominance was defined. "I don't think I've seen a guy other than Greg Maddux with 80 pitches in the ninth," Branyan said. "He threw a heck of a ballgame."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.