While umpire Jeff Nelson cannot be blamed for the Yankees' anemic showing at the plate during Game 2 of the ALCS, New York has every right to hold him partially accountable for the crooked number that the Tigers hung up on them in the eighth inning.
Already leading 1-0 entering the top of the eighth, Detroit was helped in a two-run rally by a blown call at second base by Nelson. With two outs and Omar Infante at first base, Austin Jackson singled. Nick Swisher fielded the ball in right-center field and fired it to Robinson Cano at second. The Yankees' second baseman tagged out Infante, who had overrun the bag and was attempting to dive back.
To the dismay of the Yankees and bewilderment of even impartial observers, Nelson decreed that Infante was safe. Not only did the blown call extend the inning but it forced Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda from the game. Predictably, Infante scored when the next batter, Avisail Garcia, dropped a single into right off Boone Logan. When Girardi returned to the field to pull Logan for Joba Chamberlain, he got into a heated argument with Nelson who ejected him. Miguel Cabrera greeted Chamberlain with yet another hit to right and the Tigers added another run. The Tigers' ump-assisted, two-out rally set the final scoreline of 3-0.
"Seriously, that call was atrocious," wrote Justin Sablich of The New York Times. "Girardi had every right to go nuts on Nelson, and Nelson didn’t really have a right to toss Girardi after messing up that badly."
With his team in a 2-0 hole after two games on its home turf, Girardi was in a less than pleasant mood following the 3-0 loss (on his 48th birthday, no less).
"It's frustrating. I don't have a problem with Jeff's effort. I don't because he hustled to get to the point. But in this day and age, when we have instant replay available to us, it's got to change," Girardi told reporters during his postgame press conference. "These guys are under a tremendous amount of pressure. It's a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it's hard for him to see. It takes more time for me to argue and get upset than [if] you get the call right. There's just too much at stake. I mean, we played 235 days to get to this point."
Ultimately, Girardi seems to be absolving Nelson and passing the blame along to Commissioner Bud Selig and those at MLB who have been reluctant to institute widespread instant replay. How many more blown calls -- or infield flies to the outfield -- will we see before the umpires get a chance for a second look?