Paul Konerko’s sharply hit ground ball to the right of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar wasn’t routine but it’s a play he’s made. Same for scoop attempt by first baseman Eric Hosmer.
But when Hosmer didn’t handle the throw, Del Black faced a decision, one he’s confronted countless times in his 37-year career as an official scorekeeper.
Hit or error?
But this one carried weight. A hit would be the first for the White Sox off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. There were two outs in the seventh, with the situation moving from flirtation to serious about the franchise’s first no-hitter since 1991.
Every fan in Kauffman Stadium wanted Black to rule an error, likely on Escobar for the throw.
Black ruled hit, quickly, without checking the reply. The crown scoreboard flashed the information and boos filled the air.
Guthrie played the diplomat.
“It was a tough play,” Guthrie said. “He played his way into a chance to get an error or hit, and the scorer scored it the way he did. I just wanted to go out and make pitches.”
All’s well that ended well for the Royals. They won, 5-2, swept the series and completed a 5-1 homestand. Guthrie, making his sixth start since being traded from Colorado, turned in his third straight dominant outing, although he didn’t get the victory after the White Sox scored twice in the eighth to end his scoreless inning streak at 22.
But the scoring play was the talk of the postgame. Royals manager Ned Yost thought it was an error.
“For the next two hitters I was so upset I wasn’t thinking, period,” Yost said. “But I reeled myself back in and got in the ball game.
“Let just said I’m just glad they got a clean base hit.”
Well, yes and no. Those two White Sox singles in the eighth finished Guthrie and wound up costing him the decision when they scored on ball that whistled between Hosmer’s legs. No doubt about that error.
But the non-error in the seventh?
“You’ve got flash error on the board right away,” Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. “if you’re in any other park that’s an error…To be in your home park, in the seventh inning, with two outs, that’s an error.”
Black said it wasn’t.
“It was a tough play,” Black said. “One of the things in scoring you take into consideration is the effort and the degree of difficulty, which there was.”
Black said he took into account that Konerko isn’t a fast runner, but Escobar hurried the throw, adding to the play’s difficulty.
“There was no doubt in my mind, and I never considered changing it,” Black said.
Which is a scorekeeper’s prerogative. But the Royals will ask Major League Baseball to review the call. If reversed, nothing would change about Guthrie’s line except one fewer hit allowed.
Black kept the books on the occasion of the Royals’ previous no-hitter, on Aug. 26, 1991 by Bret Saberhagan, also against the White Sox. That one didn’t go off without a ruling hitch. In the sixth inning, ln the fifth, a ball went off the glove of left-fielder Kirk Gibson and the scoreboard flashed a base hit. Only, Black hadn’t decided. After consideration, he ruled it a catch-able ball and an error.
The last time he heard boos as loudly as he did Sunday came during the franchise’s promotion with Krispy Kreme. With 12 Royals base hits, fans could pick up a dozen doughnuts.
“I ruled an error and it gave them 11 hits instead of 12, and I heard about it,” Black said.
Sunday, the fans left smiling when the Royals didn’t unravel late.
After the White Sox made it 2-2, the answer came immediately, and for the second time the big blow came from catcher Salvador Perez.
Billy Butler opened the eighth with a walk. The speedy Jarrod Dyson got the pinch-running assignment and promptly swiped second.
Perez then dropped a single to right center to easily score Dyson.
The Royals tacked on insurance after loading the bases and getting some help from the White Sox defense. Instead of Johnny Giavotella hitting into an inning-ending pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play, catcher A.J. Pierzynski was charged with an error when Beckham couldn’t handle his throw at first.
The Royals got one run there, and another on Lorenzo Cain’s single.
Perez had broken a scoreless tie in the sixth, delivering a one-hopper over third baseman Ray Olmedo that rolled up the left field line for a two-run double. Cain had opened the inning with a single, Escobar walked and both moved up on Jose Quintana’s wild pitch.
Alex Gordon struck out and hot-hitting Butler was intentionally walked to fill the basis when Perez’s chop bounded over Olmedo’s head.
But the day and the controversy belonged to Guthrie, who said he’s happy to part of a team that’s improved to 12-6 in August.
“We’re playing better, doing things that winning teams do,” Guthrie said. “It’s more of what people and fans expected to see here at the beginning of the season.”