SEATTLE -- On Sunday, it took four balls before Cameron Maybin got his free ride to first base.
A day earlier, it was a little easier, at least for him. An umpiring mistake let the San Diego center field draw a bizarre walk on a 2-2 pitch, prompting many in baseball to wonder: Can't anyone here count?
The whiff on Maybin's shortened walk Saturday night that led to the only run of the Padres' 1-0 win wasn't limited to the scoreboard operator or home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. No one in the Seattle dugout or on the field complained that Maybin was trotting down to first one pitch too soon.
Seattle manager Eric Wedge took it as far as calling a team meeting Sunday morning in part to apologize for missing the wrong count.
"I'm the captain of this ship and something like that cannot happen. That falls on me. I should have trusted my instincts with what I felt it was, but I didn't and that's my fault," Wedge said. "That can't happen. I preach to these guys about being accountable and I sure as hell need to be accountable for that yesterday."
Though such mistakes have occurred in the majors, they're very rare. Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who has played in over 2,500 games, said he'd never experienced anything like it before.
"Last time I saw that it was like the 4- and 5-year-olds playing T-ball, or coach-pitch or something, where there's one umpire on the field and they might lose track. I've never heard of that in a big league game," Washington's Adam LaRoche said. "I've seen it a lot of times where guys will run down to first on three balls, but they always get called back. I've never seen it where it slips by everybody."
With one out in the fifth inning, Maybin fell behind 0-2 against Seattle starter Doug Fister.
Maybin then fouled off a pitch before Fister missed to make the count 1-2. Maybin fouled off another before Fister missed with a curveball in the dirt. The count both in the stadium and on the television broadcast showed 3-2 and the next pitch missed high with Maybin walking to first base and no one making an argument to Cuzzi.
The at-bat was reviewed on video by official scorer Dan Peterson and it was determined the high fastball should have only been ball three. Maybin later scored the only run when Alberto Gonzalez's one-hopper deep in the hole glanced off the glove of shortstop Brendan Ryan and into left field for a hit.
"I watched it after the game. I don't even remember fouling off one of the pitches," Maybin said Sunday morning.
"But I guarantee you from here on out," Maybin continued, "somebody in the dugout will be keeping track on both sides."
Maybin walked the first time he came to the plate Sunday. Correctly, too.
Crew chief Tom Hallion said after Saturday's game that Cuzzi was using a pitch indicator and had the count at 2-2. When Maybin headed to first with no argument and the scoreboard showing the count already at 3-2, Cuzzi figured he just missed a pitch.
It's customary for plate umpires to keep track of the count with a hand-held clicker that's part of their standard equipment. It was clear Sunday's home plate umpire, Bill Miller, was using one in his left hand.
Wedge believed the same, thinking he'd just missed a pitch with his head down as Fister works very quickly on the mound.
"You have to follow the game, which I think we do as well as anybody. But it's just such a rarity to the point where I've never seen it before. Like I said I have to trust me gut on that one. there is human error, but that can't happen," Wedge said. "I think we've definitely become too dependent on the scoreboard, I'll say that much."
It was the second time recently a mistake was made on ball four. Last weekend in Texas, there was a related mistake Nelson Cruz of the Rangers took ball four on a 3-2 pitch. But no one seemed to realize it was ball four, so he stayed in the box and struck out on the next pitch.
It became a moot point in the Rangers' 14-5 loss to the New York Mets. But Maybin's gift was magnified because it was the lone run.
Above all else, the gaffe highlighted the need to stay engaged in what's happening during the game, even with all the distractions that can take place.
"Not to throw umpires under the bus, but you get to a point where they make their calls, balls and strikes, safe or out, fair or foul, that's their job. Let them take care of it," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "Now when you start missing some calls, now you've got to start doing that (keeping up with it) and I think that's where all the griping and complaining comes in."