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Braves edge Pirates in 19th on contested play

| Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ATLANTA — The longest game in the history of the Pirates and Braves was decided by the umpire early Wednesday morning, as Jerry Meals ruled Julio Lugo safe at home in the 19th inning.

It was a call that was immediately disputed by catcher Michael McKenry. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez's throw home clearly beat Lugo, and replays showed McKenry tagging Lugo on the leg. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle immediately ran onto the field and argued as the umpires left the field.

It didn't do any good, as the Braves celebrated their 4-3 victory at 1:49 a.m., 6 hours, 39 minutes after the game began.

"(Meals) said he made a swipe tag, and he never touched him," Hurdle said. "You like to see the game finished by the players, win or lose. For it to end like that is as disappointing as it gets in a game. You had every player in the game laying it out there. Two pitchers from the bullpen threw over 80 pitches. And for the game to end that way, it's really too bad. The game deserves better than that. The game tonight deserved way better than that."

Daniel McCutchen, who was starting his sixth inning of relief on a night when he wasn't supposed to pitch at all, walked Lugo after getting the first out. Jordan Schaefer, who was scratched from the starting lineup because of a left hand injury but entered the game in extra innings, hit a single to right-center field, moving Lugo to third. When Scott Proctor hit the ball to Pedro Alvarez, Lugo took off for home.

Alvarez threw home, Lugo slid feet-first, and McKenry reached out and tagged his leg. McCutchen was so convinced Lugo was out that he was yelling for McKenry to throw to first for an unconventional double-play.

McKenry was shocked when Lugo was ruled safe.

"I was kind of baffled, I didn't know what to do or what to say," he said. "It was a tough situation."

Meals said that he saw the tag, but McKenry "looked like he ol├ęd him, and I called him safe for that."

"I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area," Meals said. "I'm guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there when it happened I didn't see a tag.

"I just saw the glove sweep up. I didn't see the glove hit his leg."

Lugo told reporters he thought Meals made the right call.

"I'm being honest...I didn't feel him tag me," said Lugo, who didn't begin to celebrate until after Meals made the call.

McKenry took it easy on Meals, saying it was a tough call.

But it really wasn't.

"There's always controversial calls that are really, really close, but I've never seen anything that bad," said Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who lasted five innings in his shortest outing since May 29. "I don't really have a comment for it. Maybe he just didn't want to be here anymore. It's just a shame. You can't really put it into words. For some reason, someone didn't want us to play any more, so the game was ended."

Both teams had several chances to end it before that.

In the 17th, after Cristhian Martinez pitched six scoreless innings of relief for the Braves, they turned to Scott Proctor, who had a 7.36 ERA.

When he issued a leadoff walk to Xavier Paul, it seemed a good omen for the Pirates. But with two outs, Paul at third and Neil Walker at second, Alvarez flied out to make it 1 for 7 at the plate with a first-inning single and a sacrifice bunt in the 13th.

In the 18th, they had McKenry on second and Lyle Overbay on third after he broke an 0 for 7 streak with a leadoff single, but Paul lined out to first for the third out.

Chris Resop pitched a scoreless 10th, then the Braves missed a chance in the 11th after Jason Grilli gave up a single and hit the next batter to put two on with one out. They both advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt but Martin Prado grounded out to end it.

"We threw it all out there, from 7:10 p.m. until the end," Hurdle said. "I couldn't be prouder of our guys and I'm sure (manager) Fredi (Gonzalez, who was ejected by Meals along with Nate McLouth for arguing a strikeout against McLouth in the ninth) and Carlos (Tosca) couldn't be prouder of their guys. The disappointing game is for the game to finish the way it finished, on a wrong call."

The game beat the Pirates' previous longest of six hours, 12 minutes, set on Aug. 25, 1979, and as also the Braves' longest since they moved to Atlanta in 1966, beating the previous time of six hours and 10 minutes set on July 4, 1985.

Click here to see the play for yourself.

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