KANSAS CITY -- Was it batter's interference?
The batter, Lorenzo Cain, didn't think so. But the plate umpire, Chad Fairchild, did, and it's his opinion that counted.
The result was that a splendid scoring opportunity was squelched in the eighth inning of the Royals' 2-1 loss to the Tigers on Friday night.
"I didn't think it was a good call at all. It was a big difference in the ballgame," Cain said. "It could have been a runner on third, no outs, and that was a huge key in the game. We could have probably got that run in. I definitely didn't like it all."
Here's what happened:
Nori Aoki singled off reliever Joba Chamberlain. With Cain at the plate, Aoki took off for second, and catcher Bryan Holaday's throw was wide and went into center field. Fairchild immediately signaled that Cain was out for interference even as Aoki was reaching third base. Aoki was sent back to first base.
"We put a hit-and-run on, and I was watching Nori's jump," manager Ned Yost said. "I glanced and saw Lo's swing and looked back at Nori, so I really didn't see what happened. The umpire said that there was contact -- Cain swung and leaned over the plate and there was contact, thus interference. I haven't had a chance to see the replay, but it definitely changed the momentum in the game at that point."
It sure did, because Eric Hosmer followed with a single, with Aoki advancing to second base. Then both Salvador Perez and Billy Butler flied out to center, and the inning was over.
"I was following through with my swing," Cain said. "I don't know what the rules are, but I guess the catcher had to make contact with you. But I didn't think he made contact with me. I didn't think I affected his throw at all."
The pertinent rule, 6.06, states: A batter is out for illegal action when (c) He interferes with the catcher's fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter's box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher's play at home base.
Yost, a former catcher, gave his interpretation of the rule: "If the hitter swings and he's in his box, it's not interference. If you swing and you're leaning out over the plate, even though your feet are in the box and you make contact ... it's interference. ... It's based on contact and not giving the catcher a free lane to throw."
Holaday, for his part, said that he had to alter his motion.
"I had to shorten up my stride, and even [then] my throwing hand hit him on the shoulder when I came through," Haladay said.
Said Fairchild: "It was batter's interference on the swing. He interfered with the throw going to second base."
And no, this play is not subject to challenge under the new instant replay procedure.
"He threw it, and I thought the ball was well on its way before he kind of leaned into me," Cain said. "I don't know if he touched me or not, but I don't think I affected him at all. I don't think it was a good judgment call at all."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.