There were no specks of yellow paint on the seats in Section 208. And the admittedly partisan Yankees fans sitting behind the rightfield foul pole at the Stadium Friday night swore that Nate McLouth's long fly ball in the sixth inning indeed was foul, missing the pole by inches.

Still, the home run that wasn't continued to be a topic of heated discussion long after the Yankees earned a trip to the ALCS with a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

If a drive touches any part of the pole, it is considered fair. TNT's Craig Sager reported that he spoke to an unnamed usher who said he had seen it "nick" the pole. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said that from the dugout, it appeared that the ball was a home run. The man who hit the ball, however, believes that the umpires made the right call.

"I thought that it was foul," McLouth said. "I haven't seen it in slow motion, but I thought in regular speed it was foul. And really, really close."

Close enough that it proved to be almost a metaphor for the Orioles' loss and everything that has transpired between these two teams during their 23 games this season.

The teams entered the game having played to a draw, each winning 11 games. The Yankees had a one-run lead in the top of the sixth when McLouth crushed a 3-and-1 fastball from CC Sabathia down the rightfield line toward the foul pole, but the ball was ruled to have hooked foul at the last moment. Orioles manager Buck Showalter rushed onto the field to ask for a review, which he got. But the initial call by rightfield umpire Fieldin Culbreth was upheld.

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"I saw it go to the right of the pole," Culbreth said in a statement after the game. "There is netting there and it did not change direction."

Andrew Dena of Commack, who was sitting right behind the pole, said it was a good call. Said Dena: "It was definitely foul by inches. If it wasn't, we would have heard a ping. There was no ping."

Said former Yankees manager Showalter, "Obviously, they probably got a lot better replays than we do, and we have a good system in place to keep those things from affecting the game. Someone said it nicked the pole, but that didn't beat us."

The Orioles did have other chances. With one run already home in the eighth, they loaded the bases with one out but couldn't get any closer. But the home run that wasn't will be the play they remember most during this long offseason.

Said Adam Jones: "They say this is a game of inches, and tonight it really was. Unfortunately, we were just too many inches the wrong way. It's tough."