Two pressure points hit Tropicana Field on Saturday evening. One likely will be forgotten. One likely won’t.
When home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza ejected Yankees manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames from Game 2 of the seven-inning doubleheader, it drew further attention to the tension surrounding the eventual 5-3 Yankees loss to the Rays, one sparked by the Rays repeatedly throw high and tight to Yankees batters to continue the ill will between these two AL East rivals.
An unusually taciturn Boone explained he got the fifth-inning hook after protesting the heave-ho of Thames, which he felt was unjustified.
Asked what Thames said to be thrown out, Boone replied, “Nothing. Nothing.” The Yankees manager said of Carapazza, “He misinterpreted what Marcus said.”
The chirping from the Yankees’ dugout could be heard on television by virtue of the empty stands, and that anger emanated from a trio of pitches thrown high and tight to Yankees players, two to DJ LeMahieu (in separate at-bats) and one to Gio Urshela. The last one, by Rays right-hander Andrew Kittredge to LeMahieu, immediately preceded the turbulence, as LeMahieu ended the top of the fifth with a comebacker for a groundout.
“I think it was more just about the history,” Aaron Judge explained. “Having somebody throw at [Austin] Romine’s head a couple of years ago. You don’t usually forget stuff like that. To continue to throw up and in, up and in, that’s tough.
“We’ve got a lot of big hitters up there. We know they’re going to throw in, but to miss that far up and in that many times, you’re going to get a little barking from the dugout. It’s just the lineup we have. We’ve got a lot of big power hitters that can drive the baseball, so a lot of teams are really going to try to back us off the plate. It’s something we know. It’s something they’ve done for years now. They want to come in and back us off so they can open up the outer side of the plate. It’s just something we’ve got to deal with, but I know our pitchers are going to protect us.”
It was Kittredge, on Sept. 27, 2018, at The Trop, who threw behind the head of Romine. He has since joined the Tigers. The now retired CC Sabathia responded by drilling Tampa Bay catcher Jesus Sucre and, upon getting ejected, pointed to Kittredge in the Rays’ dugout and declared, “That’s for you, [expletive]!”
Judge confirmed Kittredge was the primary target of the Yankees’ animosity, saying, “Anytime someone throws at a guy’s head, you don’t forget that.”
These teams generally don’t like each other, though. Last year, benches cleared during a game at Yankee Stadium when Sabathia and Avisail Garcia jawed at each other.
Sunday’s series finale presents one last opportunity, for now, for anger, misinterpretations, knockdowns and whatever else these two rivals can produce, the absence of fans not leading to an absence of intensity.
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