(LARRY LAGE/AP) DETROIT — Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost his bid for a perfect game Wednesday night with two outs in the ninth inning on a call that first base umpire Jim Joyce later admitted he blew.
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First baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fielded Jason Donald's grounder to his right and made an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag. The ball was there in time, and all of Comerica Park was ready to celebrate the 3-0 win over Cleveland, until Joyce emphatically signaled safe.
The veteran ump regretted it.
"I just cost that kid a perfect game," Joyce said. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."
"It was the biggest call of my career," said Joyce, who became a full-time major league umpire in 1989.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately argued the call and was joined by several of his players after the final out. Galarraga was trying to pitch the third perfect game in the majors this season.
Galarraga (2-1) was in complete control throughout the night. Then Donald's groundball became the flash point of the night, and perhaps the season.
After center fielder Austin Jackson made a spectacular catch on Mark Grudzielanek's leadoff fly in the ninth and Mike Redmond grounded out, Donald came up with two outs.
Galarraga caught Cabrera's toss and smiled, knowing what he'd just done. He held up his glove hand and started to make an out call with his right hand.
And then Joyce made his call. Galarraga looked stunned and Comerica Park went silent in disbelief. A couple of Tigers put their hands to their heads.
Galarraga quietly went back to work as the crowd started to boo. Cabrera continued to argue the call as Galarraga quickly retired Trevor Crowe for the one-hit shutout.
Joyce faced a group of hostile Tigers - led by Leyland - between the pitching mound and home plate after the final out and was booed lustily by the crowd of 17,738 as he walked off the field.
"I don't blame them a bit or anything that was said," Joyce said. "I would've said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would've been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me."
Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched a perfect game Saturday night at Florida, and Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics did it against Tampa Bay on May 9. Until then, there had never been two perfect games in the same season in the modern era.
Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a no-hitter, too, at Atlanta on April 17.
Galarraga struck out three and walked none, and was a most unlikely star. He was recalled from Triple-A Toledo on May 16 after pitching poorly during spring training, losing out in a competition for the final spot in the rotation to Dontrelle Willis, who was traded Tuesday, and Nate Robertson, who was dealt to Florida toward before the team broke camp.
The 28-year-old native of Venezuela had success in 2008, going 13-7, but he had done nothing quite like the masterful performance he had against the Indians.
He started with a 2-0 count against Crowe, then attacked the strike zone and kept most of the weakly hit balls on the infield.
Cabrera hit his 15th homer to give Detroit a 1-0 lead in the second inning and Magglio Ordonez had an RBI single in the two-run eighth.
Fausto Carmona (4-4) pitched well. He gave up three runs - two earned - on nine hits and no walks.
The Indians came close to getting a hit twice before their disputed single.
Galarraga almost became the first Tiger to throw a perfect game. Justin Verlander threw the sixth no-hitter in franchise history on June 12, 2007.