This is what we used to call "cheater's proof" on the playground when we were kids.
You know, when an argument between the two sides in a kids' game ended with one side feeling they'd really gotten jobbed, and possibly out of winning the game itself; then the side that got "cheated" out of something came back and won the game anyway.
That's essentially what happened Thursday night in Philadelphia. Tyler Colvin diplomatically said that he agreed with the umpires' ruling of "double" on his ball that appeared, even on watching many replays, to have been over the fence above the out-of-town scoreboard at Citizens' Bank Park. That ball should have been a home run, which would have dramatically ended Colvin's 0-for-34 slump and given the Cubs a 4-3 win in nine innings (presuming Carlos Marmol would have done in the ninth what he did in the 11th inning).
Have you ever seen the size of the replay screen that the umpires use in most ballparks? Your laptop screen is probably bigger. How can umpires be expected to get it right every time when they have to use a magnifier to see the position of the ball or whether a fan has touched it across a barrier where there wasn't even a yellow line? (I'll bet there will be a yellow line at that point in Philadelphia, real soon.)
Also, the umpires allowed Colvin to circle the bases and score. There is an implied ruling, therefore, on the field, that the play resulted in a home run. There needs to be conclusive evidence to overturn that -- and there wasn't. It really wasn't clear, on the replay angles available, that the fan reached out of the seating area -- further, no player could jump that high to catch the ball. The ruling on the field should have stood.
The game slogged on. This time, Mike Quade and the Cubs got it right -- loading the bases with an intentional walk in the bottom of the 10th and forcing the Phillies to let reliever David Herndon bat, because they had used up all their position players and their entire bullpen. Herndon had only two previous at-bats, both strikeouts. All Sean Marshall had to do was throw strikes, and the inning would be over. He missed with a slider, then threw three straight strikes, the last an unhittable curveball that Herndon swung through and missed.
The Cubs won 4-3 in the 11th when Phillies 3B Placido Polanco made a throwing error on a routine ground ball that should have ended the inning. You know, the kinds of routine errors that Cubs infielders have been making most of the year. You're used to seeing that, only by players in blue uniforms, not benefitting them. Colvin, who was on second base again after a single (putting his average back over the .100 line at .106) and passed ball, never stopped running and scored the winning run; Marmol did finish up for save #12.
This all came after a blinding wind and rainstorm blasted through Philly in the third inning; the grounds crew had trouble getting the tarp down in the gusts. When it was over, both starting pitchers, Kyle Kendrick (who had shut out the Cubs for three innings) and Randy Wells (who had been touched for a three-run jack by Jimmy Rollins) departed.
That's where the Cubs did something that's been very rare this season -- get excellent bullpen work. The Cubs pen threw 8.2 shutout innings, giving up just four singles, four walks, and striking out six. Attaboys, then, to Rodrigo Lopez, James Russell, John Grabow, and Marshall and Marmol -- nice job. An attaboy also to Geovany Soto, whose home run off Phillies closer Ryan Madson (his first since May 4) tied the game just before the Colvin mess.
So the Cubs take a game they probably should have lost. When's the last time we could say that? The rest of this series won't be nearly as "easy" to win, what with the Cubs facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, in that order.
Oh, and MLB? Replay review is great. But you've got to get a fifth umpire on the crew, stationed in the press box, with larger monitors (and expand review to include fair/foul, safe/out, and trapped/caught). It'd take less time and give you better reviews.