Detroit — The first thing Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after losing to the Reds 5-2 Tuesday was, "We got beat. They hit three home runs…they just beat us."
The second thing he said was that the replay system needs to be fixed.
"In my mind, instant replay has regressed this year," he said. "It has gone backwards. Very quickly in 2014 you had an understanding of where that line was between sufficient and insufficient evidence.
"That line is blurry now."
He was not discounting the two home runs Todd Frazier hit, or the homer Jay Bruce hit — all off Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan — but the game changed in the bottom of the fifth when the Tigers wound up on the wrong side of a video review.
"I would like someone to explain to me what sufficient and insufficient evidence is," Ausmus said. "Last year I had a good idea what that was. I can't tell you what it is this year."
Here's what happened:
The Tigers trailed 2-1 after Frazier and Bruce hit back-to-back homers in the top of the fifth. They loaded the bases with two outs. James McCann was on third and Anthony Gose was on second.
Yoenis Cespedes ripped a shot that caromed off the leg of pitcher Mike Lorenzen and rolled into foul territory on the first base side. McCann scored to tie the game and Gose came barreling toward home. Joey Votto picked up the ball and threw home. Gose slide hard between the legs of catcher Brayan Pena. He was ruled out by home plate ump Mike Everitt.
Ausmus had his choice of two plays to challenge — the out call or whether Pena had blocked the plate.
"It was probably both," said Matt Martin, the Tigers defensive coordinator who reviews the video and counsels Ausmus on which plays to challenge. "He looked safe and that's what you are going to challenge.
"Once (Pena) caught the ball, he jumped to block the plate and he overshot it and Gose slid in between. But he looked safe initially and that's what you want to challenge. The other is so much up to interpretation. Safe or out is not up to interpretation."
"He might have blocked the plate, as well, but that's a much more amorphous rule and it's hard to get overturned on a challenge," he said.
Several replay angles appeared to show that Gose got his foot to the plate before the tag. Certainly Ausmus and Martin believed they did.
But after a three-minute, thirty-eight second review, the call on the field was allowed to stand. Which means the video review officials in New York didn't feel they had conclusive evidence to overturn it.
"After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official felt that he could not definitively determine that the runner touched home prior to being tagged," Everitt said to a pool reporter.
Gose said he thought he was out, too.
"If the umpire said I was out, I was out," he said. "I shouldn't have been going. J.D. (Martinez) was coming up. We had a chance for a big inning."
Martin, though, said it was clear to him on the video that Gose's foot beat the tag.
"It was a big play in the game," he said. "Sometimes they look safe and this year they haven't changed calls. He looked clearly safe. I thought we'd get the overturn and take the lead 3-2. As you saw, that didn't happen."
Ausmus was a vocal proponent of instant replay last season.
"I thought it was a good thing," he said. "For the most part they changed calls in order to get the play right. I have not seen that this year."
Asked if they were using "inconclusive evidence" as a crutch, he said, "Yeah, I would agree with that."
He said he would like to hear from the replay official but he doesn't expect to.
"There have been so many we thought were clear but haven't been changed when we thought they should have been changed," he said. "We don't know where that line is. We don't understand when they are going to overturn a play unless it is absolutely blatant, and that's a problem.
"Sometimes we're just throwing a Hail Mary. We think it's conclusive but we're just throwing a Hail Mary and they come back and say it's unconfirmed. The system needs to be fixed."
The call seemed to take some of the steam out of the Tigers. They managed just two singles the rest of the way and went meekly in the ninth against closer Aroldis Chapman, who was throwing 101 mph consistently and fanned McCann with a 103 mph heater to end the game.
All the talk afterward, though, came back to the thwarted replay challenge.
"I really don't have a comment on that," said McCann, who was standing near the plate when the call was made. "Everyone got to see the replay."