DETROIT — Avisail Garcia hit a fly ball deep to right field to start the bottom of the eighth inning for the Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon, a routine play in what had been anything but a routine game to that point.
Daniel Nava, just inserted into the game, ran it down. The ball was at his waist when he turned, so Nava flipped his glove up to catch it. The ball plopped in and the Red Sox had one out.
Umpire Mike DiMuro disagreed. Because Nava dropped the ball when he went to transfer it to his left hand, DiMuro ruled there was no catch.
Garcia reached second on the error. The Tigers went on to score three runs in the inning and beat the Sox, 7-5, to take three of four games in the series.
The Red Sox played one of their poorest games of the season. Their pitchers were inefficient, the defense made a series of mistakes, and the offense left 11 runners on base, six of them in scoring position.
But most of the postgame talk centered on the call in right field and the latest controversy involving major league umpires.
“Clearly the call was missed,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was ejected by DiMuro.
“It’s unfortunate,” Nava said. “I know what happened.”
Crew chief Ted Barrett defended the call.
“To have a catch, you have to have complete control and voluntary release,” he said. “[DiMuro] had him with control, but did not have the voluntary release. When he flipped the ball out of his glove, he never got it into his hand. That’s not voluntary release.”
Nava said he caught the ball, secured it in his glove, and dropped it after he went to throw it back in.
Nava was playing with his left thumb heavily taped, but he didn’t believe that contributed to the ball being dropped.
“The ball was in there. I guess [DiMuro] didn’t have a good angle unfortunately,” said Nava, who sprinted in to plead his case. “I knew that I caught it.”
DiMuro checked with the other umpires and when the call stood, Farrell was ejected for the first time this season.
“When you spend the rest of the game in the clubhouse you probably have a difference of opinion,” Farrell said.
Farrell also thought first base umpire Scott Barry should have made the call.
“Why it was called by the second base umpire, I don’t know,” he said.
Said Barrett: “With no one on base, that is certainly [DiMuro’s] jurisdiction.”
The Sox did not handle the rest of the inning well. The next hitter, Bryan Holaday, bunted and pitcher Andrew Miller threw high to Dustin Pedroia covering first base for an error.
“I thought Pedey might have still been on the bag. But it’s irrelevant. The throw’s got to be better,” Miller said.
Miller then walked Austin Jackson on five pitches to load the bases.
“I put us in a hole and it’s on me. A lot of stuff happened there and I’m pretty disappointed,” Miller said.
Rookie righthander Alex Wilson was handed an impossible situation. The Tigers took the lead on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked.
Lefthander Craig Breslow came in to face Prince Fielder and allowed a two-run single on a hanging slider.
“Whether or not [the controversial call] has an effect on the outcome of the game, it certainly changes the complexity of the eighth inning,” Farrell said. “We end up in a situation that we also contributed to. But we’re in a much different situation with one out and nobody on base.”
The Red Sox scored a run in the ninth and had Stephen Drew at the plate as the tying run. He hit the ball well, but Hunter made a diving catch in right field to end the game.
The Tigers tied the game in an unusual seventh inning.
It was curious that demoted closer Andrew Bailey came out of the bullpen to start the inning against the top of the Detroit order with the Red Sox leading, 4-3.
On Friday, Farrell said his plan was to have Bailey work in lower-pressure situations to regain his confidence. This was anything but.
Junichi Tazawa had thrown only 16 pitches in a scoreless sixth inning. But Tazawa had pitched on Friday and warmed up Thursday. Farrell did not want to further extend him.
“Trying to be careful with him,” the manager said.
The Red Sox also were short a man in the bullpen, electing to delay a decision on placing Franklin Morales on the disabled list after he was injured Saturday.
“That’s where we were in the bullpen,” Farrell said.
Bailey allowed a leadoff single by Jackson. Hunter followed with a soft liner to second base that Pedroia dropped.
Pedroia threw the ball to first base and Mike Napoli stepped on the bag. Hunter was out on the play but Jackson was safe at first.
Had Napoli tagged Jackson first, the Sox would have had a double play.
“It should have been the other way around,” Napoli said.
Pedroia said it was a play he never had encountered before.
“It kind of knuckled there at the end,” he said. “I probably should have thrown it to second.”
Cabrera followed with a single and Bailey was taken out of the game. Fielder singled off Miller to load the bases. With one out, Miller got ahead of Jhonny Peralta 0-and-2 before hitting him with a fastball to force in the tying run.
The wild final innings overshadowed the Red Sox driving Tigers ace Justin Verlander out of the game after five innings. He allowed four runs and threw 112 pitches.
Felix Doubront left after five innings and 104 pitches with a 4-3 lead.
The Sox have lost four of their last five games and are off on Monday before starting a nine-game homestand. They have a two-game lead in the American League East, but the five teams are separated by only five games.
“The last couple of innings, it kind of got away from us. But we’ve got a really good team,” Pedroia said. “I think obviously we can compete with anybody and plan on doing that.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.