Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with two outs in the top of the first inning and immediately pointed to the batter's box, arguing that it didn't extend far enough back. As it turned out, he was right. Crew chief Gary Cederstrom confirmed that the box was drawn too far forward and stopped the game for the grounds crew to rechalk the lines.
According to diagrams in the Major League Baseball rulebook, the batter's box must be four feet wide and six feet deep, extending three feet each way from the midpoint of home plate. The batter must stay in that box when he's hitting, though the back line usually gets blurred by hitters' back foot soon after the game starts.
"The lines should've been back farther," manager Jim Leyland said. "The batter's box was fine, but they had it moved up too far. It wasn't aligned with the plate and everything the way it was set up, so they just changed it."
The box appeared to be the right dimensions, but it was centered too far forward. Neither Austin Jackson nor Brennan Boesch noticed it in their at-bats before Cabrera came up, but either Cabrera or someone in the Tigers' dugout did.
"It was no big deal," Leyland said.
Cabrera, too, didn't want to make an issue out of it after the game.
"We lost the game," Cabrera said.
It's a rare miscue. Major League grounds crews have wooden frames made out to the specific dimensions so that they can chalk the lines quickly and exactly. It can make a big difference for a hitter who wants to stay as far back as possible to get an extra split-second to react to the pitch.
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski was behind the plate for the whole ordeal. He suggested it happens more often than some think, but he has never seen that result.
"I've heard guys complain about the box before," he said, "but I've never seen them redo a box during the game. But you know, it's one of those things that [Cabrera] wasn't comfortable and the umpires acknowledged that. They looked like they were a little bit pushed up, but there have been places where we go and we talked about it on the bench that the box doesn't feel right."
The fact that the umpires were willing to order the boxes redrawn might change how he reacts to it.
"The next time it's like that," Pierzynski said, "we are going to stop the game and tell them to redo the boxes for us."
The game was delayed for about five minutes while the grounds crew swept off the chalk of the old box and redrew it. Cabrera, meanwhile, drew a heavy amount of boos from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, which has made him a favorite target in his four-plus seasons with the rival Tigers.
Once they finally had it right, Cabrera stepped to the plate and flew out to right on the first pitch.