HOUSTON - In recent years, with this building mostly empty, the play likely would have been routine. But with the Astros in first place and fans flocking back to Minute Maid Park, Carlos Correa's fourth-inning fly ball into the gap in left-center presented a problem.
With many in the crowd of 31,961 screaming, Yankees centerfielder Brett Gardner and leftfielder Garrett Jones couldn't hear each other calling for the ball. Both pulled up and the ball landed between them for what was scored a double. Gardner then kicked the ball back toward the wall while attempting to pick it up, and his two-base error allowed Correa to score easily.
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Instead of representing the 10th straight batter retired by Michael Pineda -- who threw up his arms in surprise when he saw the ball drop -- it became an unearned run and a 1-1 tie in the Yankees' 3-1 loss.
"It was loud and neither of us heard each other," Gardner said. "It's an easy play that we messed up. I should have caught it, obviously. If nothing else, I can pick it up and throw it back in and keep [Correa] at second. You never know how the game would have gone differently if we had made that play. As well as big Mike pitched, you can't afford to make mistakes like that behind him."
Gardner said that as the centerfielder, he should have taken charge. Jones, making his first start in leftfield this season, said he should have respected Gardner's range. Either could have caught it, but Jones pulled back his glove at the last moment.
"I know that Gardy's obviously really fast and covers a lot of ground out there and he's the centerfielder," Jones said. "Probably [the next time on a similar play], I'd be more on the defensive on that play knowing that he's probably going to get it."
Joe Girardi, who said the play "obviously" should have been made, said of Gardner: "It's his responsibility. Whatever he can get to, it's always been that way. Go ahead and go catch it."
Pineda said the mistake was "a little surprising, but I tried to keep going and pitch my game."
The Yankees have had a few such miscommunications between fielders this season. In Baltimore two weeks ago, Gardner and Carlos Beltran let a ball fall. In the same series, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann watched a foul pop near the dugout land between them.
With the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees have had a variety of outfield combinations, but Girardi said that's "no excuse" for what happened Sunday. "The play has to be made," Girardi said again.
After the inning, Gardner sought out Pineda in the dugout. "I just told him I was sorry," Gardner said. "As good as he threw the ball today, he didn't deserve to give up a run like that."