David Murphy followed the bouncing ball, only to be tagged out by another one on the field.
The bizarre sequence summed up a Tuesday night when nothing went right for the Cleveland Indians in a 9-2 loss to Cincinnati.
Murphy was thrown out at third base on a fluke play in the seventh inning. During Yan Gomes' double to right, a warmup pitch by Jumbo Diaz flew onto the field from Cincinnati's bullpen, which Murphy believed to be the live ball that landed just behind second base.
Ramon Santiago at third took a relay throw from Zack Cozart and tagged Murphy out when he rounded the bag — despite the stop sign being thrown up by Indians third base coach Mike Sarbaugh.
"A player is told two things in that situation, to trust your base coach and to find the ball," said Murphy. "Sarby is saying, 'Right here, right here,' but I see a ball sitting there and I'm thinking I can make it. I'm not kicking myself because what can I do? I guess you could say I'm a bad listener because I didn't listen to Sarby."
Though Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (12-6) was dominant in throwing a complete game, Cleveland only trailed 6-2 at the time and would have had two runners on with none out. Manager Terry Francona ran onto the field to discuss the call with crew chief Gerry Davis, but knew the rules were not in his favor.
"Gerry's explanation was right on, but that didn't make it any easier to hear," Francona said. "He said he understood our frustration, but they can't kill a play until the conclusion. It's unfortunate and kind of fluky, but that's how it goes."
Francona laughed when he was asked if he thought Diaz intentionally affected the play, saying, "That looked like a pretty decent throw. If they're that good, they're really good and they deserve it."
Murphy was playing right field, forcing him to stand in front of Cincinnati's relievers for the final two innings. He found little humor in the situation.
"When I went back out there, I told the guys in their bullpen, 'Good job,' but we didn't have a chance to have a conversation about it," Murphy said. "Fortunately, the game ended up being lopsided. But seeing what happened, a team could think about doing that, so maybe there needs to be a rule instituted about it."
Cleveland remained 2 1-2 games out of the final American League wild-card position, but had its 10-game home winning streak against Cincinnati snapped.
"The timing of that play was crazy, bizarre, unfortunate," Murphy said. "I've never seen anything like it. Hopefully, I never do again."
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-8), who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game, allowed six runs in 4 1-3 innings. He leads the team with 17 homers allowed, including a three-run shot to Santiago. Francona wouldn't commit to whether Tomlin will make his next start.
The Indians released outfielder Nyjer Morgan in what Francona termed a mutual decision. Morgan, who had been on the disabled list since injuring his right knee on May 14 in Toronto, batted .341 in 15 games. Cleveland also optioned outfielder Tyler Holt to Columbus to make room for Tomlin.
Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (right wrist strain) is expected to be available Wednesday after missing two games. Center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring strain) began a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday at Double-A Akron and could be activated next week. Bourn has been sidelined since July 6.
Indians right-hander Danny Salazar (4-4) takes on Reds righty Mat Latos (3-3) as the series shifts to Cincinnati for two games beginning Wednesday. Salazar has won a career-high three straight starts, posting a 2.00 ERA while striking out 17 batters over his last 18 innings.