NEW YORK — There was some early controversy in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night revolving around a home run by Robinson Cano and a drive by Lance Berkman that was ruled a homer before an official review determined it was foul. Both plays came in the bottom of the second inning.
Cano belted one that just cleared the wall in right. Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz jumped up and tried to bring it back in. As he reached for the ball, a fan made contact with his glove. Another fan also tried to catch the ball. According to television replays, the ball would have been a home run anyway, as neither the fan nor Cruz made contact with the ball, which bounced on top of the wall on its way to the seats.
Rangers manager Ron Washington came out to argue, but the umpiring crew chose not to utilize the instant-replay system that is allowed by Major League Baseball on boundary home run calls.
“His opinion was that the ball left the field, and the fans didn’t come on the field to impede with his opportunity to catch it,” Washington said in his in-game interview with TBS.
According to rule 3.16 in the MLB rulebook, “When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference. If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.”
And, the rule also states at part d: “Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball. On any interference, the ball is dead.”
The fans involved — brothers Jared Macchirole, 20, and Jay Macchirole, 27, of Queens — got caught up in the moment.
“It’s a reaction. You see the ball coming at you, you try to catch it, and that’s what happened,” said Jay Macchirole. “It was a home run ball regardless. We caught it over the wall. Once it’s over the wall in home run territory, it’s anybody’s ball. And we went after it, and we got it. It was above the cement. We reached over, it hit me, [Jared] grabbed it, Nelson Cruz started [complaining and] started pointing at us.”
Jared Macchirole sure appeared to get a good grip on Cruz’s glove.
“I did not touch the glove,” Jared Macchirole said. “I certainly know he pointed at me and my brother afterwards [but] I certainly wasn’t trying to interfere.”
The play recalled memories of Game 1 in 1996 ALCS, when a fan named Jeffrey Maier, 12 years old at the time, reached over the right-field wall at the old Yankee Stadium to pull in a Derek Jeter home run. The homer tied the game and the Yankees went on to win. In that case, Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco looked like he was going to catch the ball had not Maier interfered. But the call stood.
Maier was watching Game 4 from a television at Laguardia Airport on Tuesday night.
“I thought they put those bars up there to prevent that from happening? I guess not. Those guys had pretty good access,” Maier said in an interview with Newsday.
Two batters later, Berkman hit a towering shot down the line in right field. Right-field umpire Jim Reynolds signaled home run and Berkman trotted around the bases amid the roar of the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Washington again came out to ask the umpires to take another look. This time, he got his wish. And after the umpires huddled in front of the replay camera on the third-base side, it was ruled a foul ball. According to a multitude of replays shown on TBS, the drive appeared to be foul by inches, as it stayed on the right side of the foul pole.
Berkman wound up striking out. So, instead of a 2-0 lead, the Yankees were up by just one.
The Rangers rallied right back with two runs in the top of the third to take a brief lead before New York went back on top.