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Home » July 2011 Game CommentsJuly 2011 » Lost the Plot

Lost the Plot

Home plate umpire Marty Foster would have been the worst sporting official of the day had Jacqui Melksham not stepped on the pitch of Rudolf-Harbig Stadium (also known as Glücksgas Stadion) in Dresden, Germany.

The 32-year old Australian official bungled a number of calls in the quarterfinal match between the United States and Brazil for the Women’s World Cup. Melksham failed to give Carli Lloyd a yellow card for a handball but then went out of her way to make up for the error.

In the 65th minute Melksham ruled that a tackle of Marta by Rachel Buehler was worth a red card and also gave the Brazilians a penalty kick. Hope Solo made a tremendous save on Christiane’s kick, but Melksham had the Brazilians retake the penalty because a US player encroached into the box. By all accounts such a strict execution of the rule is rare. Solo was given a yellow card for arguing with the retake. Solo guessed wrong on Marta’s kick and the Brazilians equaled the score 1-1.

Even though they were a player down it took the world’s best female player until the second minute of extra time to pull her team ahead. Marta made a truly remarkable goal, a kick perfectly spun and angled so that Solo had no chance of blocking it, rather like how Daniel Bard’s slider eludes bats. A replay of the goal showed that Brazil was offsides and that the goal should have been waved off.

The US women had more than a touch of 2004 about them. When the pressure was highest they delivered. In the 122nd minute Megan Rapinoe made a flawless pass to Abby Wambach, who headed in the equalizer with Brazilian goalie Andreia flailing ineffectually at the ball. Thankfully Melksham didn’t find some way to erase the tying goal, the latest goal scored in Women’s World Cup history.

The US women hit the back of the net on every one of their penalty kicks while Solo stopped Daiane, Brazil’s third shooter. To bring the plot full circle, it was Daiane who gave the US the early lead with an own goal.

Foster’s failures weren’t as glaring as Melksham’s, but they showed an overall lack of feel for the game. In the bottom of the fourth with two men on and the score tied 6-6 Foster warned the benches when Jeremy Guthrie hit Kevin Youkilis with a change-up. If Buck Showalter wanted vengeance he wouldn’t have told his pitcher to use his off-speed arsenal, and he definitely wouldn’t pull the trigger in a winnable game with a man in scoring position.

The tone-deafness continued in the next inning. The Red Sox held a one-run lead and Kyle Weiland, who was making his first start in the bigs, had just allowed Adam Jones triple to center. Weiland came in on Vladimir Guerrero because even a rookie knows that the slugger will swing at pitches two feet off the plate but you might have a chance of getting him out by sawing him off. The fastball came too far inside and hit Guerrero on the hands, prompting Foster to eject Weiland. By rule Terry Francona was ejected as well.

Weiland’s removal turned out to be a tactical benefit for the local nine. Alfredo Aceves took the mound and struck out the next two batters. Blake Davis lined out to Josh Reddick for the last out of the inning, stranding two Orioles. Aceves would pitch three perfect innings with four strikeouts.

Perhaps the only correct ejection was of Michael Gonzalez in the sixth. He got swinging strikeouts of the first two batters he faced and threw behind David Ortiz after the designated hitter fouled off one of his fastballs. Ortiz was at the center of the conflict and Gonzalez probably felt that John Lackey’s plunking of Derrek Lee was a debt that had to be repaid. But like Kevin Gregg and Wile E. Coyote before him, Gonzalez couldn’t even exact revenge correctly.

Game 90: July 10, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jeremy Guthrie (3-12)
2B: Mark Reynolds (16)
3B: Adam Jones (2)
HR: Derrek Lee (9)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (4-1)
H: Daniel Bard (21)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (20)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (29), Jason Varitek – 2 (9), Dustin Pedroia (19)
HR: Marco Scutaro (4), Pedroia (11), Kevin Youkilis (13)

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