Travis Fryman was just trying to mind his own business and get out of the way Tuesday night at Dunn Tire Park. He ended up in the middle of a bizarre sequence that could prove to be the death knell to the Buffalo Bisons' playoff hopes.
The rehabbing Cleveland Indians third baseman was nailed with a dubious obstruction call on a rundown play in the fourth inning, allowing the Ottawa Lynx to score the go-ahead run in a 10-5 victory over the Herd.
After taking a 2-0 first-inning lead, Buffalo frustrated a crowd of 8,557 by giving up nine unanswered runs. The Herd is six games behind first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with eight to play and its "tragic number" for being eliminated from the race is three.
The Red Barons strengthened their grip on their first division title in seven years with a 7-6 win at Syracuse, their fifth straight. That dropped the SkyChiefs four games out. Pawtucket is three back after a 3-0 win at Rochester.
The 3-hour, 31-minute affair was Buffalo's longest nine-inning game of the season and the Herd was left stewing after this one because of the critical call by third-base umpire Dan Iassogna.
Here's what happened: With runners on first and second and one out in the fourth, Ottawa's Jason Camilli grounded into a force at second. Shortstop John McDonald took the throw and fired behind Chris Stowers, who had rounded third too far.
Fryman caught Stowers in a rundown and threw to catcher Chris Turner, who dropped the ball but quickly picked it up. Turner was going to throw to McDonald at third, but Stowers stuck his hand out to push Fryman aside on the way back to the bag.
Stowers was running in the baseline while replays clearly showed Fryman on the grass out of the runner's path, but Iassogna ruled obstruction on Fryman and gave Stowers home. The run gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead and left Fryman, in his second game on rehab from Cleveland, in a nose-to-nose argument with Iassogna.
Out of the dugout bolted manager Jeff Datz, whose team has been at odds with Iassogna much of the season. Datz kept Fryman out of the argument and picked it up himself, to no avail.
"To me the runner has three feet on either side of the baseline and Fryman was out on the grass," Datz said. "He (Stowers) had plenty of room and reached out and grabbed him. But that's how it goes and we have to live by the call, right, wrong or indifferent."
"The runner reached out and grabbed me," Fryman said. "That's not my idea of obstruction. The umpire said the obstruction was because the runner had slowed down to avoid running into me. At that point, he called it, not because he grabbed me. I hadn't heard that one before."
Fryman was on the foul side of the baseline and replays backed up Buffalo's claim that Stowers had plenty of room to maneuver.
Peter Bergeron's RBI single capped a two-run inning to make it 4-2. The Lynx put the game away with five more in the sixth off Buffalo relievers Jeff Sexton and Jim Dedrick, two on Fernando Seguignol's 20th homer.
Fryman, who is here coming back from a torn knee ligament suffered July 3 against Kansas City, had a scary moment after Bergeron's single when his knee buckled while trying to relay the ball to second. Fryman limped off the field but still played his scheduled six innings, going 0 for 3. He's 1 for 7 in Buffalo after getting a hit in his first at-bat.
Fryman said he felt a little rusty in the field in just his second appearance at third since the injury. He's expected to play today against Rochester and will likely return Friday to Cleveland.
The Bisons had just two hits through the first five innings Tuesday, including Bill Selby's first-inning homer. Jeff Manto blasted a two-run shot off Ted Lilly in the sixth, his 20th.
"It wasn't because of the play at third that we lost the ballgame," Datz said. "That didn't help but they (the Lynx) swung the bats well and pitched better. We were sloppy, the rundown play included. If we don't drop the ball, there's not a controversy. If we execute, we get the guy out."