A run was taken away from the Devil Rays last night, and you don't do that without an eruption from Mount Piniella.
Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella, known for his hot temper, went off like Vesuvius, complete with a dramatic hat toss, after a safe call by first base umpire Dana DeMuth was changed following a conference with plate umpire Laz Diaz. Diaz ejected Piniella for his outburst.
The Rays were facing Curt Schilling, clinging to a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning. After two quick outs, Carl Crawford doubled and stole third. Julio Lugo then hit a grounder to first that was fielded by John Olerud, who flipped to Schilling covering the bag.
DeMuth first ruled Schilling had missed the bag and Lugo was safe, with Crawford scoring. Schilling argued vociferously, with help from manager Terry Francona. DeMuth then asked Diaz for help, and when Diaz said Schilling had touched the bag with the side of his foot, DeMuth called Lugo out. Enter Piniella, and after a two-minute fireworks display, exit Piniella.
''You have a pretty good umpire in Dana, and he's 6 feet away from the play," said a considerably calmer Piniella after the game, his mood no doubt helped by the fact his team held on for the 3-1 win. ''You've got a home plate umpire 90 feet away, and he sees it better? It's hard for me to believe. All I know is that the play got overturned. I never saw a play called like that overruled. The first base umpire was in perfect position to make the call. Just make the call.
''If he [DeMuth] tripped or stumbled or his cap came down over his eyes, that's different. But he was right there. He had the play covered. It didn't have any effect on the game, but it could have.
''That would be hard for anyone to take. That was a big run for us. . . . You've got one base to call. Make the call, and stand by it. He had a clean call."
DeMuth told pool reporter Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press that he asked Diaz for help.
''I thought Schilling missed the bag," said DeMuth. ''I saw him come down. His foot came down before Lugo's foot. I had the bag between me and him [Schilling]. I assumed that the whole foot missed the bag, so I [called] him safe.
''He [Diaz] had a better angle to try to get the call right. I asked him first if he saw it. He said he did. I thought it [Schilling's foot] did not hit the bag. The bag itself blocked me. He said his foot was on the bag."
The Sox went quietly in the bottom of the ninth with Johnny Damon flying out to end the contest and his 29-game hitting streak. The controversy perked up the crowd during an otherwise listless game.
Piniella praised his pitchers, especially starter Scott Kazmir, who labored through six innings, throwing 119 pitches and walking six. But Kazmir gave up only three hits and struck out seven.
''We got good pitching," said Piniella. ''Kazmir had a tough beginning [walking three and giving up an unearned run in the first], but he settled down and gave us six good innings. He's got good stuff. If he can get ahead [in the count] and pound his fastball, he can pitch. Our pitchers got the job done tonight."