Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate.
What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season and likely a lot longer: the perfect game that wasn’t.
Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe, the Detroit Tigers argued, and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park in Detroit.
After the game, Joyce emphatically said he was wrong. Later, in tears, he hugged Galarraga and apologized.
“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”
“I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay,” he said after the Tigers’ 3-0 win.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Joyce asked to speak with Galarraga. The pitcher appreciated the gesture.
“You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,’ ” Galarraga said. “He felt really bad. He didn’t even shower.”
The call is certain to prompt a push for Major League Baseball to use increased replays. As it stands, baseball replays can be used only for questionable home runs.
MLB declined to comment on Joyce’s call.
Galarraga (2-1) was trying for the third perfect game in the majors in a month, including Roy Halladay’s gem last Saturday night.
Center fielder Austin Jackson made a spectacular catch on Mark Grudzielanek’s leadoff fly in the ninth. Mike Redmond then grounded out.
On what should’ve been the final out, Donald hit a grounder in the hole between first and second. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded it and threw to first, where Galarraga caught the ball at least a step ahead of Donald, replays showed.
“I feel sad,” Galarraga said. “I just watched the replay 20 times, and there’s no way you can call him safe.”
Cabrera hit his 15th homer to give Detroit a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and Magglio Ordoñez had an RBI single during a two-run eighth.
Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona (4-4) gave up three runs — two earned — on nine hits and no walks.
AROUND THE HORN
Texas Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero was taken to the hospital after a ball he hit in batting practice ricocheted off the cage and struck him above the left eye. The Rangers said he had “significant swelling,” but precautionary X-rays showed no structural damage. … The San Diego Padres activated outfielder Scott Hairston from the 15-day DL and optioned outfielder Luis Durango to Triple-A Portland.