Umpire’s blown call stalls Yankees’ comeback
You did not need a high-definition television to see that the Yankees got jobbed Saturday night at Baltimore in a game that could have repercussions down the line. The call by first base umpire Jerry Meals that completed a game-ending double play that hung the Yankees with a 5-4 defeat was so blatantly wrong that it would turn a baseball purist into an avid campaigner for instant replay.
Trailing by two runs entering the ninth inning, the Yankees staged a rally against Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who has had a lights-out season. Ichiro Suzuki and Eric Chavez both singled to left field, and Derek Jeter dumped a beauty of a bunt toward a hesitating Manny Machado, the Birds’ rookie third baseman, that filled the bases with none out.
Nick Swisher, mired in a 0-for-24 slump, grounded into a fielder’s choice but averted a double play as Ichiro scored to make it a one-run game and pinch runner Chris Dickerson moved up to third base.
That brought up Mark Teixeira, who returned to duty after missing 10 games because of a left calf strain (the Yankees were 4-6 in those games). He doubled in his first at-bat and ran at less than full strength throughout the game. A double play was certainly feared if he hit the ball on the ground, which he did to the second baseman, Robert Andino.
But Tex ran full throttle down the line and dived head-first into first base, a maneuver usually frowned on but in this case understandable considering the circumstances and the health of the runner. With the naked eye, Teixeira appeared safe, but Meals rung him up. DP. Game over.
Replays clearly showed that Teixeira’s left hand was on the bag before first baseman Mark Reynolds caught the relay from shortstop J.J. Hardy. Teixeira, already hot from the previous inning on a called third strike by plate umpire Cory Blaser, was furious with Meals’ call, as was first base coach Mick Kelleher, not a regular griper.
Michael Kay on YES overstated the situation by saying the call “cost the Yankees a game.” Well, no. Had Teixeira been ruled safe, which he should have been, Dickerson would have scored, but that would have only tied the game. The Yankees would have had two outs and a runner on first with Alex Rodriguez at the plate, a good situation but no guarantee that they were going to take the lead.
Nevertheless, it was a lousy way for a game to end.
The Yankees were counting on an ace-like performance from CC Sabathia to create distance between them and the Orioles in the American League East standings. The lefthander had the same problem other Yankees pitchers have had against Baltimore, however, in failing to defuse its power.
The Orioles slugged three home runs off Sabathia, who has now yielded 21 dingers, the most he has allowed in any one season. For the third straight start, Sabathia was unable to hold a lead. He was given a 1-0 lead before he took the mound on a Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the top of the first and was up, 2-0, courtesy of an RBI double by Ichiro in the second.
Just as quickly, the edge was gone as Sabathia allowed back-to-back home runs by Reynolds and Lew Ford in the bottom of the second. It was Reynolds’ seventh home run in his past six games against the Yankees. The Orioles took the lead for good on a double by Hardy in the third. Hardy also took CC deep in the sixth, and Ford struck again with an RBI single.
Camden Yards was something of a comfort zone in his career. Entering this season, CC was 10-1 with a 2.73 ERA in 85 2/3 innings there. This season has been a different story. In three starts at the Yards this year, he is 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA. Sabathia did not have his best fastball and hung some sliders in his uneven outing.
One fastball was definitely powerful, the one that struck Nick Markakis in the fifth inning and broke his left hand, which will finish him for the regular season, a major blow for the Orioles.
A-Rod’s 646th career home run, a two-out solo shot off Pedro Strop in the eighth, kept the Yanks close enough to make a late-game run at it, which the blatantly blown call stifled.
“Sometimes I think the umpires just want to go home,” Teixeira said afterward, a comment that could warrant his being fined.
He probably won’t play in today’s series finale as he surely aggravated his physical condition. Manager Joe Girardi was not as fierce in his postgame comments, which was smart. He is well aware that the same umpire who blew it at first base will be working the plate Sunday.