CLEVELAND -- A controversial no-call of an unusual foul ball in the third inning of the Indians' 10-7 win over the Astros at Progressive Field on Thursday led to a pair of Cleveland runs scoring, the ejection of Houston manager A.J. Hinch and confusion on both sides.
The Indians had a 2-1 lead over the Astros in the third and had the bases loaded with two outs when Astros rookie pitcher David Paulino bounced a breaking ball in the dirt. The ball struck the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall on a check swing, but no foul ball was called by plate umpire Jim Joyce. Francisco Lindor scored from third base and Mike Napoli raced from second to score on what was ruled a wild pitch. Jose Ramirez, who was on first, went all the way to third before Joyce called time in the confusion.
Astros catcher Jason Castro never went to chase the ball, certain it had been fouled, and even reached out his hand for a new ball. Hinch immediately bolted from the dugout to talk to Joyce and eventually was ejected.
The crew on the field huddled and finally went to the headset for a rules check to confirm that a potential foul tip is non-reviewable per the replay regulations. The crew also asked for post-play runner placement after time had been called, and Ramirez was sent back to second.
The Astros couldn't protest the call because there was no rules infraction, Hinch said.
"It's a tough scenario for us, obviously, because I think everybody in the ballpark saw the play as it was, except for the four guys that make the call," Hinch said. "The hitter reaction, the catcher reaction, the bench's reaction, the baserunners' reaction, all of sort of proved it was a foul ball.
"It just wasn't the call on the field. Once they couldn't definitively say it was different, they weren't going to overturn it. It's not a call I challenge, not a call I can review. There's nothing you can really do about it but wear it, and it cost us two runs. That type of game, this type of situation, common sense loses again, because it's really a situation we can't do anything about."
After the review, Napoli came back out of the dugout and appeared to be headed back to third base in the confusion, but his run -- as well as Lindor's -- counted to give the Indians a 4-1 lead. Indians manager Terry Francona played coy.
"Live, I didn't know," Francona said. "We have the ability to go to replay, which they don't. Nobody ever wants to have a call go against them. I will say, that guy behind the plate [Joyce] gives you as good an effort and is as conscientious as any umpire I've ever been around. And there have been calls that have gone against us with him. It's just hard to get mad at him, because he gives you everything you ever ask for."
Joyce told a pool reporter he didn't see the ball hitting the bat.
"And then I went to each crew member and asked them the same thing," Joyce said. "If any of them had it hitting the bat, I would have turned around and called a foul ball. My partners couldn't help me on it. Since I called timeout, I scored two runs and put the other guy on [second]."
The veteran umpire, who hadn't seen the replay of the play immediately after the game, said he called timeout after two runs had scored because Castro was emphatically trying to discuss with him what was going on.
"I'm not going to let bases loaded, keep rolling," Joyce said. "To use a little bit of common sense and some fair play on that one, I wanted to call time and figure out what had happened."
To their credit, Napoli and Lindor didn't stop running.
"I thought it was a ball in the dirt that went off the catcher, and then I saw him standing there and the ball by the backstop and nobody doing anything, so I kept going," Napoli said. "I didn't see what really happened. I just saw the ball go in the dirt and kick off. I was just running until they said stop."
Castro admitted he was surprised at the no-call. He said he tried to convince Joyce in multiple ways that the ball struck Chisenhall's bat, including the initial reaction of the players.
"I mean, that's what it was, and I thought it was pretty obvious that it was," Castro said. "It's not something you can review obviously, and if none of [the umpires] had it being other than what they thought the home-plate umpire saw, and then they weren't going to try to overrule him if that's what his call was."
The Astros wound up losing by three runs, so it's hard to determine the impact the two runs ultimately had on the outcome.
"Obviously, the game played out how it played out," Hinch said. "I mean, who knows if it impacted the game or not? We'll never know, but … the umpires are trying their best. They're very respectful. They're good umpires, and they just didn't see the play today as it happened, but it's extremely disappointing to walk away from that inning feeling wronged."
This was the second time in the past week that the Indians benefited from a controversial call.
In the first inning of Friday's 6-2 win over the Marlins, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis tried to check his swing on a full-count pitch from Andrew Cashner, but could not stop his swing in time. Rather than a third-strike call, though, home-plate umpire Nic Lentz ruled that Kipnis did not swing, leading to a walk. That set the table for a three-run inning that helped the Tribe to the victory.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.