The curious case of Curtis Granderson and the phantom foul tip

Curtis Granderson turned and appealed to the plate umpire. Surely, this could not have been another strike.

Granderson’s Game 4 of the National League Championship Series had been full of strikes, nothing but strikes. He had swung at nine pitches without putting a single one in play. He already had batted three times, struck out three times.

And, now, the umpire had ruled he had struck out again. Granderson could not believe it. He whirled around and pleaded that he had heard ball hit bat, no matter how glancing the blow.

The umpires huddled and agreed, despite a replay that clearly showed Granderson had swung over the ball, without making contact. The Wrigley Field video board replayed that replay, over and over, agitating the crowd.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon charged onto the field, pointing to the video board, demanding to know why Granderson should get another swing when every idiot in the ballpark could see he already had struck out.

No matter. Granderson got another swing.

And a miss.

In four words, that is Granderson’s October: swing and a miss. He struck out in all four of his at-bats Wednesday. He has struck out eight times in 15 postseason at-bats, with one hit — a single — and no walks.

“It’s just baseball being baseball,” Granderson said. “I wish there was something more to it than that. If so, everybody would be able to figure it out, and you would never be in that situation.”

Granderson was acquired from the New York Mets in August, and he replaced Joc Pederson as a left-handed bat in the outfield. If the Dodgers advance to the World Series, they might consider keeping Pederson on the roster and dropping Granderson.

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Granderson hit three home runs in his first week in Los Angeles, but his overall batting average with the Dodgers was .161, and his OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) was .654. Only one regular National League outfielder had a lower OPS over the full season: Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds.

He started Wednesday, because he had a career OPS of 1.070 against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, with four strikeouts in 34 at-bats. On Wednesday, Arrieta struck him out three times in three at-bats.

The disputed strikeout came in the eighth inning, against Cubs closer Wade Davis. A foul tip is not subject to replay review, but Granderson and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts persuaded plate umpire Jim Wolf to confer with the other umpires.

“I thought I foul tipped it,” Granderson said. “That’s why I stayed there.”

Wolf’s colleagues told him the ball had hit the ground and the catcher’s mitt. Wolf decided he had heard two distinct sounds, and he told Maddon one of them must have been a foul tip.

Maddon was incensed, and soon ejected. The umpire heard two sounds? None of the umpires, Maddon said, had actually seen the ball hit the bat.

“The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row,” Maddon said.

After the game, Wolf saw a replay and admitted his mistake.

“I basically talked myself into ‘He did foul tip it,’” Wolf told a pool reporter. “And after looking at it, I was dead wrong. I talked myself into the whole thing.”

Amid the cascade of boos, Granderson was at peace.

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“They were making their noise heard for the umpires, not for me,” he said. “I wasn’t the one that made the call.”

Granderson acknowledged that he had looked up at the replay on the video board. When asked what he saw, he took a tactful pause to choose his words.

“I don’t know what it looked like, but I hit the ball,” he said. “The replay isn’t always going to show it.”

The replay had shown it, clearly. Granderson had not hit it.

He got another chance, one he did not deserve. He struck out on the next pitch. If he had hit a home run, the Dodgers would have taken the lead, and the already-ejected Maddon might have erupted anew.

“If Granderson hits the next pitch out,” Maddon said, “I might have come running out of the clubhouse in my jock strap.”

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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