Plate umpire Adrian Johnson stomped toward Chase Headley and took off his mask, pointing his finger inches from the third baseman’s face. Headley, still smarting from the ball he just took to the hand, along with two days’ worth of calls he didn’t agree with, was all too happy to snap right back.
In the end, it may have been a miscommunication, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought, though neither party involved thinks so. Headley bunted a ball off his hand in the seventh inning in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the Astros, and when catcher Brian McCann asked if he was OK, Headley said he was hit before the ball made contact with the bat.
“He apparently didn’t like that,” Headley said of the umpire. “I wouldn’t call it a misunderstanding. I think he was in the wrong. I didn’t say a word to him. He approached me, took his mask off, put his finger in my face and I responded . . . I definitely think there needs to be accountability on both sides.”
Johnson, who spoke to a pool reporter, saw it differently. “McCann asked if it hit him and he looks directly at me and he says, ‘Yeah, it [expletive] hit me.’ So I step towards him and say, ‘Why are you upset with me when you guys can replay that?’ . . . He kept yelling, so I ejected him.”
Problem was, that was about the only drama the Yankees experienced at home plate Friday.
The Astros did pretty much whatever they wanted against the Yankees. Unlike Thursday’s Yankees loss, there were no thwarted comebacks and no mad dashes to the plate, just a fine pitching performance by Lance McCullers, Jr., and a well-balanced attack that the Yankees did little to answer.
“We saw a couple good pitchers, but you’re going to go through that,” Girardi said. “You’re not going to hit home runs every game . . . We’re in a little streak here. We’ll bounce back.”
The Yankees (21-12) have lost three in a row, while the Astros (25-11) improved to 10-2 in their last 12 games, including five victories in a row.
McCann, clearly glad to be back in a place that’s always been so accommodating to his home run stroke, looked as comfortable as ever in the fourth, when the Astros did most of their damage.
Carlos Correa led off the inning with a single to left and, with one out, Marwin Gonzalez did the same, putting runners on first and second for the Yankees’ former catcher. McCann turned on Jordan Montgomery’s 84-mph changeup, poking it inside the rightfield foul pole for a 3-0 lead. Montgomery allowed four earned runs in six innings, with eight hits, a walk and seven strikeouts.
“I made a bad pitch to a good team and he made me pay for it,” Montgomery said. “He just put a good swing on it.”
The Astros added a run in the fifth. George Springer led off with a double down the leftfield line. With two outs, Correa blooped a ball inside the line in right. Aaron Judge appeared hesitant going after it, and the ball dropped in, allowing Springer to score.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and after allowing a two-out, run-scoring single to Josh Reddick was checked by a trainer. He was pulled after allowing another single.
Girardi said he did not believe Chapman was injured. Chapman left without speaking to reporters.
McCullers continued his streak of dominance. Coming off one of the best starts of his career against the Angels, he had a thoroughly smooth ride through the first five innings. He allowed two singles in the second, and worked around Judge’s leadoff double in the fifth by striking out the next three. He allowed four hits in six innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts.
The Yankees didn’t score until Didi Gregorius’ RBI single in the ninth.