DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland argued with nearly every umpire on John Hirschbeck's crew by the time he finally left the field in the fourth inning of Saturday's 6-5 win against the Royals, ejected by first-base umpire Bob Davidson for arguing a foul ball that was ruled a wild pitch by plate umpire Mike Muchlinski.
By game's end, they seemed to be in agreement: The pitch in question did hit Alcides Escobar's bat, and Leyland's reaction -- holding up four fingers to Davidson to note how many umpires missed the call -- warranted his third ejection of the season.
It wasn't an easy call to make, Leyland said. After watching the replay, though, the umpires agreed that they missed it.
"Obviously, we didn't see it touch the bat from the bases," Hirschbeck, who was umpiring at second base, told a pool reporter. "Out on the field, we're 120 feet away. We couldn't tell and Mike Muchlinski, who had the plate, could not tell either."
The pitch in question was a 2-2 breaking ball from Doug Fister that bounced in the dirt in front of Escobar and continued to the backstop. Replay showed the pitch bounced in the dirt and then hit Escobar's bat on its way past catcher Brayan Pena, which by rule should have made it a foul ball and stopped play.
Pena, believing it was a foul ball, stood up out of his crouch and asked Muchlinski for another ball. Muchlinski didn't give it.
The reaction, Leyland said, should've been the tip off.
"First of all, that's a tough thing for them to see," Leyland said after the game. "But my contention was: I was a catcher, and when you don't block a curveball in the dirt with a man on base, you chase it down. You don't wait basically for another ball from the umpire. So I knew something happened. I assumed it hit the bat and I didn't know 100 percent sure until I saw the replay, which is kind of really unfair to the umpires. But by Pena's reaction, I knew that it must have hit the bat."
Chris Getz, who was on first base following his leadoff single, took off for second base and kept going, making it to third without a play as Fister scrambled to pick up the ball.
"Until I see a reaction from the umpire or knowing the ball is dead, I'm going to keep playing," Fister said.
Leyland emerged from the dugout as soon as the play was dead and had an animated discussion with Muchlinski, who was already arguing with Pena and hearing from Fister.
Once play resumed, Escobar lined the next pitch into left field for a game-tying double. Ironically, the hit might well have scored Getz from first base. Nevertheless, Pena apparently had more words for Muchlinski, who ejected him.
The argument picked up again from there. By then, Leyland had seen the replay.
"You saw Pena go down to block it, and the ball shot this way," Leyland said. "Either it hit a big boulder or it hit the bat, one of the two. But it's a tough one for the umpires.
"... If it wouldn't have bounced in the dirt, then I think they would've gotten it right, right away. That's an unbelievably tough call."
Leyland suggested Hirschbeck might have had the better angle for a call, because he was looking straight in and might have seen the carom. But Davidson, who was umpiring at first base, said he should've been able to notice it.
Either way, nobody thought it was on Muchlinski.
"That's really on me because I should've seen the ball change directions," Davidson interjected. "That's impossible for the plate guy to see because the ball is in the dirt and he's got the catcher in front of him. The only hope is that you can hear it. For me at first base, I just didn't see it hit the bat."
The missed call comes as Major League Baseball reportedly prepares a proposal for expanded replay that includes managerial challenges. Whether such a play would be reviewable was a question.
"Maybe now," Davidson said, chuckling.
Davidson issued Leyland the 71st ejection of his career. Bench coach Gene Lamont took over managerial duties.
Im sorry to my fans for tonights actions. TO my YOUNGER fans ,DONT YOU EVER LET your EMOTIONS take the best of you. This game is MY PASSION- Brayan Pena (@cuban2727) August 18, 2013
Pena, in what might have been his first on-field flash of temper this season, reared back and flung his catching mask against the dugout wall on his way in. Bryan Holaday replaced him behind the plate. Pena apologized on Twitter after the game.
Miguel Cabrera put the Tigers back ahead with an RBI double in the bottom half of the inning.