PITTSBURGH - Pirates president Frank Coonelly issued a statement on Wednesday, a day after his team's 4-3 loss to the Braves in Atlanta that included a highly controversial call in the 19th inning.
In doing so, Coonelly and the Pirates filed a formal complaint with the commissioner's office over umpire Jerry Meals' call that ended the game at Turner Field.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates organization is extremely disappointed by the way its 19-inning game against the Atlanta Braves ended earlier this morning. The game of baseball and this game in particular, filled with superlative performances by players on both clubs, deserved much better. We have filed a formal complaint with the Commissioner.
"While we cannot begin to understand how umpire Jerry Meals did not see the tag made by Michael McKenry three feet in front of home plate, we do not question the integrity of Mr. Meals. Instead, we know that Mr. Meals' intention was to get the call right. Jerry Meals has been umpiring Major League games for 14 years and has always done so with integrity and professionalism. He got this one wrong."
The loss was a costly one for the Pirates, searching for their first winning season in 19 years. In the thick of a surprising National League Central race with Milwaukee and St. Louis, the loss pushed the resurgent Pirates one game behind the first-place Cardinals.
"For Pirates fans, we may have lost a game in the standings as a result of a missed call," Coonelly said, "but this game, and the gutsy performances by so many of our players, will make us stronger, more unified and more determined as we continue the battle for the National League Central Division."
In the bottom of the 19th, with the Braves and Pirates locked in a 3-3 duel, Atlanta's Scott Proctor hit a groundball off Pittsburgh's Daniel McCutchen to third base. Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez fielded it and threw home to catcher Mike McKenry who appeared to apply the tag to Atlanta's Julio Lugo before Lugo touched the base.
Meals, however, called Lugo safe. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle exploded from the dugout after the call, which put an abrupt end to the longest game in the organization's history.
"You like to see the game finished by the players, win or lose," Hurdle said afterward. "For it to end like that is as disappointing as it gets in a game."
Meals acknowledged afterward that McKenry may have gotten the tag down. Pittsburgh reliever Daniel McCutchen, who took the loss, is convinced McKenry made the play. "Can I say that he was out? Is that legal?" McCutchen asked, adding he saw the tag.
"I didn't know what everyone was screaming about," he said.