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Russell's controversial game-tying HR looms large

Umpires' call stands after replay showed ball hitting fan above wall

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell knew the wind had been blowing out at Wrigley Field since the Braves had come to town on Thursday. So when he hit a ball off Braves pitcher Matt Marksberry into center field in Saturday's 9-7 win against Atlanta, he knew it had a chance of landing in the stands.

He couldn't have predicted how close a call it would be, though, when a fan appeared to interfere with the ball as it headed toward the bleachers. But following a Crew Chief replay review, he was awarded a home run that proved crucial to the win.

Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin tracked the ball as it sailed toward the wall and watched as the ball flew over his head, but bounced back onto the field after it hit a fan's forearm.

"From where I was standing, it looked like it had a legitimate chance to hit off the side [of the basket] or maybe go under that thing," Maybin said. "They got together and replayed it. That's really all you can do."

Crew Chief Bill Miller called for a review to determine whether the fan had affected the flight of the ball. The original call on the field stood when the replay official could not definitively determine that the fan had an impact on the ball leaving the playing field.

"I thought I had a pretty good shot, and watching Maybin go back, I thought he might have had a chance at it," Russell said. "I thought maybe it might be in the basket, maybe it might not be, but I'm glad it was ruled that it went out."

"They said they felt the ball was hit high enough on the forearm that it was going to be in the basket anyway," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "They didn't have enough to overturn it."

The home run tied the game at 7, after the Cubs had trailed 7-3 earlier in the game, paving the way for back-to-back homers in the eighth inning. The win gave Chicago a five-game lead over the Giants for the second spot in the Wild Card race.

"To tie the game up is very big," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You got to get tied before you can win it. That run might not score and they might use their bullpen differently than that. So everything changes based on that one particular play.

"I thought the play was going to stand regardless, because it looked so close they could not overturn it."

It was the fourth ball between the Braves and Cubs that was hit into the basket on Saturday. The netting was originally installed four decades ago to protect fans from falling onto the field and injuring themselves.

"That's something that seems to be an issue at the ballpark here," Maddon joked. "It's been going on for several years now."

Greg Garno is an associate reporter for
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