Plate ump's call on Bautista a game-changer

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) argues a called strike three with home plate umpire Ed Hickox (15) in the top of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees. (Sept. 4, 2010) Photo Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

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By the time reporters spoke with Jose Bautista in the Toronto clubhouse yesterday, he had had plenty of time to reflect on his seventh-inning ejection after arguing a called third strike - a slider that appeared to be several inches outside. Any regrets?

"Not in my end," he said. "I did everything I needed to do, I thought, to be successful there. So I can't control anything else."

He certainly couldn't control his frustration. If the 3-and-2 pitch from Joba Chamberlain had been called a ball, it would have loaded the bases with none out in a tie game that the Yankees eventually won, 7-5.

After being called out, Bautista - who leads the major leagues with 43 homers after never hitting more than 16 in his previous six seasons - spun around and barked at plate umpire Ed Hickox, who took an earful for a few moments before ejecting him.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston came out of the dugout to separate the two and pick up the argument as Bautista left the field to loud cheers.

Gaston declined to comment after the game, and his player was just a little more insightful. "This sort of stuff happens," said Bautista, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, a walk and a run. "I don't want to comment any more on it. It's just unfortunate that it was in that situation of the game. That's about it. That's all I'm going to say about that."

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Chamberlain said he was trying to "attack, attack, attack, attack" with Bautista at the plate. "I thought it was a good pitch," said Chamberlain, who laughed. "It was what we were going for. Just try to get him off a fastball, because he's a pretty good fastball hitter."

Toronto's Lyle Overbay didn't share Chamberlain's view of the pitch. "You just go look at the replay," he said. "I mean, they're humans. They're not going to get every pitch right. But you just wish he got the right one on that one just 'cause it's a big situation. But it just didn't happen."

After the strikeout, Vernon Wells hit a grounder up the middle that deflected off Chamberlain's glove. But it went right to Robinson Cano, who stepped on second and completed the double play thanks to Mark Teixeira, who made a full-out dive toward rightfield to grab the wide throw while keeping his foot on the bag.

It was the second time in less than two weeks that Bautista was involved in in-game controversy with the Yankees.

On Aug. 23 in Toronto, he took exception to a high-and-somewhat-tight 0-and-1 fastball from Ivan Nova in the sixth inning. He had hit a two-run homer earlier in the game.

Bautista and Nova yelled at each other as the benches cleared. Warnings were given, and the at-bat continued with Bautista flying out to center. Toronto won the game, 3-2, on Bautista's homer off David Robertson in the eighth.

Despite the recent fiery displays, Bautista said he's gotten better at putting bad at-bats behind him. "I've been pretty good my last two seasons in taking each at-bat as the important one," he said. "There was no frustration at the time of the strikeout [yesterday] - up until the last pitch."

With Erik Boland

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