At first, it appeared that Mora was cited for a foul ball, but a brief umpire conference changed that designation. First-base umpire Tim Timmons pointed out that the ball had actually hit Mora's hand, and after a discussion with home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, Mora was called out and the animated conversation began.
"He swung and the ball hit him in the hand," said Kellogg. "It's a dead ball, and the guy's out."
Baseball's official rulebook holds an easy definition of the exact play Kellogg described. In Rule 6.05 (F), the rulebook states, "A batter is out when he attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him."
In Mora's mind, that's where the dispute came in. The veteran said after the game that the ball hit his bat and not his hand, and he even pointed to a tiny abrasion on his finger to make his case for him.
"I don't have a problem with the umpire behind home plate," said Mora. "It's just that the first-base umpire, he came and he didn't even know what was going on. I told him the ball hit the bat and pinched my finger. He said, 'No, it's strike three, because the ball hit your hand.' I said, 'If it hit my hand, I'd be in the hospital. Look, the ball went into the dugout.' I showed him. 'See that little cut? The ball hit my bat, and it pinched my finger.'"
And if that account of the conversation seems too sterile, consider the way it broke down.
Mora had to be forcibly held back from Timmons at points during the debate, and manager Dave Trembley had all he could handle to keep the infielder from being thrown out of the game. The situation kept toggling between Trembley and Mora, as the two strained to make their voices heard and to get the umpires to see the game their way.
"I thought the ball hit the bat, but Jeff said he thought he swung, and then it hit the bat. So I said we can agree to disagree," said Trembley. "I'm not surprised it gets animated. Those things are just part of the game. But yeah, I thought it was important that early in the game to do whatever we could to keep Melvin in the game."
Kellogg, meanwhile, admitted that it took some restraint not to eject Mora from the game.
"At the end of it, we were getting close," he said of the extended on-field debate. "We said, 'You'd better get him out of there, or he's going to go.' They did a good job getting him out."
There were no runners on base during the at-bat in question, and it had little or no impact on the outcome of the game. But Mora, for his part, didn't want to let the play go. And while he absolved Kellogg of any fault whatsoever, he said that there's some personal animus between him and third-base umpire Rob Drake.
"I showed them the blood, but this has nothing to do with the umpire behind home plate," he said. "He called the right thing. It was a foul ball. The first-base umpire called him and [changed the call]. And the umpire at third base has something personal with me. I've gotten thrown out four times in my life from baseball, and he threw me out three."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less