ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim was going down to block a low pitch when he heard the ball tip off the bat and saw it change directions.
Home plate umpire Chad Fairchild didn’t hear or see the same thing in the ninth inning of the season opener for the World Series champions, and the Chicago Cubs took the lead on that disputed play before Texas rallied to win 4-3 on Heim’s game-ending RBI single in the 10th inning Thursday night.
As the ball rolled behind the plate, Heim held his glove back expecting to get another ball from the umpire before realizing it hadn’t been called foul. The All-Star and Gold Glove-winning catcher initially pleaded his case with the umpire and when he finally retrieved the ball, and pitcher José Leclerc was late trying to cover the plate, Michael Busch had scored from second base for a 3-2 Cubs lead.
“I think I’ll get in trouble if I tell you what I said out there, but I went to block it, heard it hit the bat, changed directions. Clearly it’s loud. A loud environment, fans are rocking. So (Fairchild) didn’t hear it,” said Heim, who took responsibility for allowing the run. “Just got to finish the play.”
Fairchild told a pool reporter after the game that he ruled it a swinging strike.
Asked if he had seen a replay, Fairchild said he had, but refused to talk about what he saw on it.
“Well, I’m just going to stick with what I did on the field,” the umpire said. “If you’ve got questions for that, I’m not going to talk about videos.”
It appeared on slow-motion replays that pinch-hitter Miles Mastrobuoni did make slight contact with his swing, but tipped balls are not subject to video review.
Leclerc, who had walked Busch, was charged with a wild pitch. Heim was charged with a throwing error on his toss that got past Leclerc and allowed another runner to go from first to third base.
“Just heads-up base running, taking advantage of a little confusion on the field,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “We kind of stole a run right there.”
Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, a former big league catcher, said Heim can’t assume that the umpire saw the foul tip or heard anything.
“It’s so loud out there. I’m sure he couldn’t hear a foul tip, we couldn’t see it,” Bochy said. “Jonah, we just talked about it. He says that’s something that’s on me. The big thing is, he put it behind him and got that big hit.”
After pinch-hitter Travis Jankowski led off the Rangers ninth with a tying homer, Heim ended the game in the 10th with his two-out liner into the right-center gap with the bases loaded. Heim was mobbed by his teammates on the field while the sellout crowd of 42,130 loudly celebrated the dramatic opening win.
Everybody could see and hear that.