The legacy of a game with five home runs may be in an umpire’s call that had nothing to do with the outcome.
In the seventh inning of the Toronto’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees, charging third baseman Brett Lawrie fielded Ben Francisco’s hard bunt and threw to first base for what was ruled an out by umpire Chad Fairchild.
Francisco had returned to the dugout when crew chief Jeff Kellogg called for all four umpires to huddle between the pitcher’s mound and first base. They motion that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion had juggled the throw, calling Francisco safe, but afterwards said Encarnacion had trapped it.
Replay isn’t permitted for such plays in baseball, leaving the umpires at a disadvantage when they try to get the play right. Whether they did in this case is disputable.
The commissioner’s office had pondered extending replay; among the arguments against, is that umpiring fallibility is part of the game, traditionally. However, with replay so widely available, they’re being pressured on controversial calls today.
“We saw the ball on the ground, where the ground was assisting the ball staying in the glove while the runner went over the base, and it was after the fact that he pulled it up,” Kellogg told pool reporters. “You’ve got to have secure possession in the glove or the hand. That ball is resting on the ground with the glove wrapped around the top of the ball.”
A furious manager John Gibbons was ejected for the second straight game, by Kellogg. He thought the umpires had no reason to huddle.
“My big concern was, there was not appeal by the other side [the Yankees dugout],” Gibbons said. “I thought the rules say, If there’s an appeal the umpire making the call can check. That’s my interpretation of the rule.”
Kellogg confirmed the nature of Gibbons’ protest but said: “Our thought process is, we are going to try to get the plays right. That’s it.”
The Blue Jays took a 3-0 lead on Encarnacion’s two-run homer in the first inning and Lawrie’s solo homer in the second. Hiroki Kuroda (3-1) quieted Toronto thereafter, giving up just one infield hit after the second inning.
Jays starter Mark Buehrle (1-1) allowed three homers to lose the lead, the decisive shot coming in the wake of more infield woes by the Jays. Vernon Wells, now 24-for-50 lifetime against Buehrle, hit a solo homer in the second inning. In the third, Buehrle had two out and no runners on base when Jayson Nix beat out a grounder on a weak throw from the hole by shortstop Munenori Kawasaki. Brett Gardner followed by hitting a soft liner past Buehrle; second baseman Maicer Izturis made an awkward attempt at it, sliding rather than diving, and the ball skipped into centre field.
The missed defensive opportunities gave Robinson Cano a chance to bat in the inning, with Wells on deck. In 19 prior plate appearances against Buehrle, Cano had collected a three singles, two doubles, a pair of homers and two walks. This time, the Yankees all-star second baseman worked a 3-1 count, forcing Buehrle to throw a fastball in on his hands. Cano belted it for a three-run homer and a 4-3 lead.
“This game is frustrating sometimes,” Buehrle said. “There's a couple of infield hits. I'd love to have [the pitch to Cano] back now but I threw it where I wanted to, and he hit it out. ... if it's further inside and he takes ball four, a guy [Wells] hitting .800 off me comes up.”
Francisco Cervelli padded the lead with a solo homer leading off the fourth inning, tagging Buehrle with his first loss in a Blue Jays uniform.
Two shortstops nursing ankle injuries appeared in the dugouts for this game, Derek Jeter for the Yankees and Jose Reyes for the Blue Jays. Arguably, the Blue Jays need Reyes more than the Yankees need Jeter.
In the eighth inning, Jose Bautista hit a ground ball to nearly the same spot as Nix had hit his to Kawasaki in the game turning third inning. Eduardo Nunez turned it into a routine out.
The Blue Jays rank last in the American League for fielding percentage, leading the league with 16 errors, and they rank 13 of 15 teams for turning double plays.
Notes: Jays are 2-6 in series openers ... They've lost seven of the last 10 games overall, and 18 of the last 23 in the Bronx. ... LH Ricky Romero, at extended spring training in Dunedin, Fla., is scheduled to pitch an inning in a Single A game on Saturday. ... DH/1B Adam Lind took a three-day parental leave to be with his wife who gave birth to a boy on Wednesday. Lincoln, called up from Triple-A Buffalo, took his place on the roster. ...