So far, so good for MLB's expanded instant replay system, which is getting its first official use after not being available for the two-game Australia series or needed on Sunday night's game. Three Opening Day calls have gone up for review, with one upheld and two overturned — all in a timely fashion.
Two of the calls up for review came in the Cubs-Pirates game. With one out and runners on first and second in the top of the fifth, Jeff Samardzija bunted back to Francisco Lirano, who started a 1-5-4 double play that erased the lead runner. Cubs manager Rick Renteria, making his MLB managerial debut, made history by challenging whether Samardzija beat the throw to first base on a bang-bang play that saw Travis Ishikawa make a nice stretch:
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First base umpire Bob Davidson's call was upheld after what the New York Post clocked as a two-minute review. Davidson was also involved in the second call, which came in the top of the 10th inning after Emilio Bonifacio singled for his fourth hit of the day. Bryan Morris threw over for the pickoff, and after Davidson called Bonifacio — who had nearly been picked off earlier in the game — safe, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked for a review. Replays showed Ishikawa got the tag on Bonifacio's right shoulder in time, and he was called out; via ESPN, the delay was said to be 2 1/2 minutes. The Cubs didn't score in the remainder of the inning, and then Neil Walker hit a leadoff, walkoff solo homer off Carlos Villanueva to win the game for the Bucs.
The other test on Monday afternoon came during the Brewers-Braves game in Milwaukee. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Ryan Braun — playing in his first game since returning from a 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs — grounded to third base. Chris Johnson double-clutched, and first base ump Greg Gibson called Braun safe. Manager Fredi Gonzalez begged to differ, and the television replay agreed. Upon the umpires' review (which took 58 seconds according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), Braun was called out:
[mlbvideo id="31722977" width="600" height="336" /] Given that MLB wasn't able to test its fancy centralized headquarters at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in Manhattan during the Grapefruit or Cactus League schedules (both used mobile trucks for a smattering of games), it's a relief to see the system get off to a strong start. Particularly given how tight both games were (the latter was won by the Brewers, 2-0), expending the extra minute or two to get the call right was well worth the delays.