OAKLAND -- For the record, Rich Harden said he touched first base. "I got it with the outside of my foot," Harden said. "I touched the bag. They got it right the first time." But Harden didn't blame the umpires for changing the call. He blamed himself. But he also said the most talked about play in the Rangers' 4-2 win over the Athletics on Monday actually helped him.
"It actually got me going," Harden said. "I wasn't happy with myself. I can see how the umpires could see that I didn't touch the base. It was my mistake, and I got mad at myself." The play in question occurred in the second inning and eventually got Rangers manager Ron Washington ejected for the second time in the past four days. Eric Chavez hit a chopper off the plate that soared high in the air between the mound and first base. Both Harden and first baseman Justin Smoak went for the ball. Harden beat him to it, catching it like a wide receiver as he was running toward first base. And he kept on running. He had Chavez beat easily, but his momentum took him into foul territory and he had to curve back to first base to make the out. Harden did not step directly on the bag; rather, he stepped against it on the right side where the bag meets the foul line. First-base umpire Paul Schrieber called Chavez out, but Chavez and Athletics manager Bob Geren insisted that Harden missed the bag completely. Schrieber conferred with the other umpires, and when they did, home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez spoke up and said Harden missed first base. Chavez was ruled safe. "I've seen plays that happen like that every once in a while," Geren said. "You figure maybe you had a different angle, so you ask for another umpire for their take. They all handled it well and, in the end, it was the right call." Washington didn't think so after getting the news from third-base umpire and crew chief Joe West. "I couldn't tell if he touched it conclusively or not," Washington said. "Angel said he saw him not touch the base. I don't know what I said, but I must have said something wrong." West said Washington was ejected because they are not allowed to argue after the umpires confer on a call. "Bobby Geren can argue and I can't argue?" inquired Washington, who was also thrown out Friday night in Seattle. It didn't matter. Harden refused to let it bother him, and he ended up pitching seven scoreless innings.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.