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Young's check swing leaves Rays fuming

Young's check swing leaves Rays fuming

ST. PETERSBURG -- Just before Michael Young took the biggest swing in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, the Rays thought they had him struck out.

Young tried to check his swing on a 2-2 slider by Chad Qualls with one out in the fifth inning, but the veteran third baseman might have gone just a little too far.

Much to the utter chagrin of Tampa Bay, first-base umpire Jerry Meals said that Young held up after the appeal from home-plate umpire Jim Wolf.

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James Shields, who had just come out of the game, fumed from the home dugout.

"I think it was a bad call but those guys are human as much as we are," said Shields. "Obviously this is a frustrating time. We were losing 2-0 at the time and I think that was a crucial at-bat."

Though he didn't get the call he wanted, Qualls focused again on striking out Young. But it didn't go well for the Rays -- not even a little bit. Young walloped the fastball to dead center for a three-run homer. The game-breaking shot turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 edge in what wound up a 6-0 win for the Rangers, who have put Tampa Bay in a 2-0 stranglehold in this best-of-five series.

The frustration of the moment was a little too much for Rays manager Joe Maddon to handle. He thought his team was also the victim of a missed call in Game 1, when Carlos Pena appeared to be hit by a pitch but instead had it ruled a foul ball.

Maddon came out and got into a heated argument that led to an ejection from Wolf.

"I really thought he had been struck out, and obviously we could go to [lefty Randy] Choate on the next hitter if that were the case, but it didn't happen to turn out that way. So it's really hard to yell from the dugout. Nobody can hear you, so I had to go out to the mound and make my point."

It was one of those plays that was even more agonizing to the Rays after seeing the replay -- but harder to call in real time.

"First-base umpire Jerry Meals used his judgment," said crew chief Tim Welke in an interview with a pool reporter. "Obviously it's a judgment call. He felt it was close, but he felt he didn't go, and that's what he said."

It wasn't a case of the bat going past a certain plane.

"No, it's either a swing or not a swing," Welke said. "And in his judgment, he didn't swing."

Young didn't sound as if he would have put up a big argument if either Wolf of Meals had called strike three.

"You know what, it was 2-2, he threw a good slider, kind of bit out of the zone and at the last minute, I checked," Young said. "If he had rung me up, I would have walked back to the dugout and focused on defense like I usually do. I got the call in my favor and just tried to lock in on the strike zone at that point."

To Qualls, the difference in approach from a 2-2 pitch from 3-2 was enormous, and the results showed why.

"Obviously we have [Josh] Hamilton and Vlad [Guerrero] coming up next, so I don't really want to walk a guy in that situation, so I have to throw him a heater, and he was just sitting fastball, and he hit it over the fence," Qualls said. "You just throw a fastball, a sinker away and try to get him to hit it on the ground or something like that. On the flip side, as a hitter, he's also going to be sitting fastball, so it's kind of a Catch-22. You don't really want to walk him, but you want to make a quality pitch for him to not hit it hard. He hit it hard."

And the Rays never recovered.

"A two-run ballgame in this ballpark, at home, is a lot different ballgame than 5-0 or 6-0," said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. "To be cliché, frustrated is the right word. You don't want to point your finger and say that's the reason we lost the game, because I think we get back to the dugout there and everybody's heads were still up. We're still trying to score a couple of runs and win the game. [Umpires aren't] perfect. I didn't even look at the replay if he went or not. I can't say if he was right nor not, but we'd definitely like a strike three there."

"I felt he went," Shields said. "I think if they go back, they might think the same thing. But when it's going game speed, sometimes the eye is not as fast as the hand. Sometimes it doesn't go that way."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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