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Posted at 08:48 AM ET, 07/27/2011

Pirates fall to Braves in 19 innings on controversial call at home plate (Video)


Julio Lugo scored the game-winning run in the 19th inning in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. But did he actually avoid Michael McKerney’s tag? (Scott Cunningham - GETTY IMAGES)

(Watch the controversial play at the plate and make the call for yourself here.)

What the Pittsburgh Pirates have accomplished this season is nothing short of miraculous.

Still riding a string of 18 consecutive losing seasons — the most ever by a North American professional sports franchise — the Pirates are five games over .500, thoroughly in contention in the NL Central and looking to add talent to their roster ahead of this weekend’s trade deadline.

But the Pirates can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye if end up on the wrong end of a few more controversial calls like the one that cost them the game Tuesday in Atlanta.

In the bottom of the 19th inning of a 3-3 ballgame — just minutes before 2 a.m. EST — Pirates catcher Michael McKenry appeared to clearly swipe the leg of a sliding Julio Lugo at home plate. But umpire Jerry Meals ruled McKenry missed the tag, giving the Braves a 4-3 win and sparking a social media firestorm among those dedicated enough to stick the game out to its conclusion.

You make the call for yourself...

After presiding over 15 1/3 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball, you might excuse a wider-than-usual strike zone, but with the game hanging in the balance, the game came down to a single play at the plate and the call was Meals’ to make.

Here’s his post-game explanation:

“I saw the tag, but he looked like he oléd him and I called him safe for that. I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area. I’m guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there when it happened I didn’t see a tag. I just saw the glove sweep up. I didn’t see the glove hit his leg.”

Major League Baseball could have oléd Meals altogether and prevented the Pirates from falling a game back of the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals with one, reasonable addition to its rulebook: instant replay.

As Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan wrote in the aftermath:

“Everybody wins with instant replay. It absolves umpires when their eyes deceive them, something, as (Jim) Joyce showed, that can happen to even the best. It affirms borderline calls they do make correctly. Above all, it ensures fairness, impartiality and accuracy. And it prevents debacles such as the Joyce call and the Meals call.”

So what do you think? Did Meals blow the game or make a great call?

By  |  08:48 AM ET, 07/27/2011

 
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