Rhymes' first big league HR comes with drama

Rhymes' first big league HR comes with drama

DETROIT -- After further review, Will Rhymes really did hit his first Major League home run. He couldn't have picked a much better time for it.

Rhymes' size, generously listed at 5-foot-9, and his track record as a doubles and triples hitter pretty much eliminated the chance of a no-doubt home run. So it was fitting that his first Major League homer came through instant replay on Monday night. Once video review showed that his loft off Zack Greinke actually cleared the right-field fence at Comerica Park, rather than hitting the top of it, his first big league shot was a go-ahead drive off the reigning American League Cy Young winner.

It's the first time a replay reversal has ever accounted for a player's first Major League home run.

Rhymes' sixth-inning shot ended up making him the go-ahead run in the Tigers' 7-5 win over the Royals. It also ended up giving him plenty of time to enjoy it as he stood on third base waiting for the call.

"I got to enjoy that home run a lot longer than most people do," Rhymes said. "That was the longest home-run jog ever."

A home run was about the last thing left on Rhymes' big league resume to fill in his late-season rookie stint. His hitting since rejoining the club last month has left him as Detroit's regular second baseman ever since Carlos Guillen suffered a season-ending knee injury. But he had gone 163 at-bats without leaving the yard in the Majors.

Once he connected on a Greinke fastball for a fly ball that carried toward right, he had a chance. Still, it seemed so unlikely that everyone readied for a play, including Rhymes.

"Obviously, he hit it really well," Greinke said. "But off the bat, I thought it was going to be just a routine popup."

Royals right fielder Mitch Maier planted himself at the fence and readied to make a leaping attempt.

"It was going out," Maier said, "so I climbed the wall and tried to catch it. I ended up seeing the replay and it was just an inch or two past my glove. As soon as the play got over, I looked back and saw the yellow line was at the top of the wall."

Rhymes didn't see the ball, but he saw Maier.

"I was running and just hoping he didn't catch it," Rhymes said. "I didn't get a look at it at all. I was just hoping to see the ball come back down to land somewhere."

First-base umpire Jerry Meals initially ruled that the ball hit off the top of the fence and stayed in play. Alex Avila trotted home with the game-tying run as Rhymes sped into third base.

Tigers first-base coach Tom Brookens immediately disputed the call, arguing with Meals that the ball had actually hit the railing above the fence. Neither coaches nor managers can specifically ask for a replay, but after manager Jim Leyland came out to question the call, the crew went into the tunnel behind home plate and watched the replay on the video monitor.

"Tom Brookens saved the day on that," Leyland said, "because he saw it. I could not tell from where I was, to be honest with you. The way that Brookie reacted, I knew that he felt it was out of the ballpark. And the umpires were great about it. They said, 'Well, we can take a look,' and they did. You're not allowed to ask them to take a look, so they were great about it."

Replays showed that the ball hit the lower part of the railing and bounced back onto the field. While the umpires saw it from their monitor, Tigers players were scrambling into the clubhouse to watch it from the video room. They quickly emerged with an answer.

"Well, we'd been looking in the dugout and they said it was a home run, but you never know," Rhymes said. "We had an idea, but I was pretty excited when the umpires came out.

Moments later, the umpires quickly emerged from the tunnel and gave the home-run call, sending Rhymes trotting home with a loud ovation from the crowd of 24,382. It marked Rhymes' 19th home run over six pro seasons. He had two this year over 95 games at Triple-A Toledo.

Johnny Damon, on deck for the shot, gave Rhymes a high-five, and the Tigers' dugout gave him the silent treatment that usually follows a player's first homer before mobbing him.

"When they went to go see the replay, a bunch of guys came up here," Avila said. "Once they saw it, everybody kind of rushed down before the umpires. And then we all just kind of planned it out."

It was the sixth review the Tigers have encountered this year, and the third at Comerica Park. Brandon Inge had a go-ahead home run overturned two weeks ago against the White Sox.

The Tigers have been involved in 11 video reviews since Major League Baseball introduced instant replay on Sept. 3, 2008. Nine of those replays involved Detroit hits.

Altogether, instant replay has been used 119 times since its introduction, with 45 of those instances resulting in overturned calls.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.