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Yankees feud with umpires as Aaron Boone, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia tossed in win over Indians

Yankees manager Aaron Boone argues with home plate

Yankees manager Aaron Boone argues with home plate umpire Ben May during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Well, that’s one way to overshadow a two-homer game by Gleyber Torres, another multi-hit effort by DJ LeMahieu and a victory over a club the Yankees might see in October.

One minute players and coaches in the dugout were celebrating the second of Torres’ blasts -- a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Yankees a two-run lead in their 6-5 victory over the Indians at the Stadium -- and the next they were collectively unleashing their anger at the umpires.

By the time the carnage had been sorted out, Aaron Boone had been ejected by plate umpire Ben May and Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had been tossed by first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi.

“Frankly, I think it got escalated because they came looking for it,” Boone said of the umpires.

The fuse was lit when the batter after Torres, Cameron Maybin, was called out on a 3-and-2 pitch that appeared outside for the second out of the sixth.

The dugout chirped at May, a minor league call-up umpire who has done big-league games since 2014, led by Boone, who had been unhappy for a few innings about a handful of pitches. The manager, whose “our guys are [expletive] savages in the box” tirade against minor-league call-up umpire Brennan Miller on July 18 went viral on social media, was ejected for the fourth time this season.

“He was egging it on the whole time,” Maybin said of May. “I asked him, ‘How can you make that call?’ He was very sure of himself that that pitch was right there. And then after that, it should have been over, and he just continued to stare into the dugout. You see it all the time.”

Then it got exceptionally heated.

Shortly after Boone returned from the field, Cuzzi charged toward the dugout from first and dramatically ejected Gardner, who again had been banging his bat into the dugout roof. It was reminiscent of Aug. 9 in Toronto, when Gardner hammered his bat into the dugout roof (coincidentally after a borderline strike call on Maybin) and was ejected not for that but because plate umpire Chris Segal – yes, a minor-league call-up – mistakenly took Maybin’s voice of displeasure for Gardner’s.  

Cuzzi mimicked Gardner’s reverse jackhammer motion after tossing him. As Cuzzi walked away, several players yelled in the umpire’s direction and he turned and ejected Sabathia. Both veterans had to be restrained from going after Cuzzi, who famously blew a call at the start of the 11th inning in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS against the Twins, calling a drive down the leftfield line by Joe Mauer that clearly landed fair  a foul ball. Cuzzi will have the plate Sunday afternoon in a game that will be started by … Sabathia, naturally.

“Making too much noise, I guess,” Gardner said. “Nobody’s told me I can’t do that, nobody’s told me I can’t make noise. I was making noise, getting our guys fired up like I do very often. Apparently, it was too much.”

The 12-year veteran, ejected for the sixth time in his career, said “I feel like I kind of had a target on my back” and later added: “I feel like they were looking in the dugout quite often … I can understand coming over there, maybe telling me to knock it off, you’re making too much noise. But to come over there, the rabbit ears kind of thing, just constantly looking for something, I thought it was pretty quick.”

Maybin said of May, “He won’t have to answer any questions like we do. That’s the sad part about it.” Indeed, that again was the case as crew chief Tom Hallion, per MLB protocol, spoke with a pool reporter afterward and shed little light on anything.

“There was an ejection of Boone and things then kind of got out of control,” Hallion said. “I wasn’t the one who ejected him, so that again will be in the report [filed to MLB]. You can get that information from them.”

As for the game, the Yankees (a season-high 41 games over .500 at 83-42) held on for a second straight one-run victory after getting shelled 19-5 in the first game of the series against the Indians (73-51). They hit four home runs, extending their season total to 226.

LeMahieu, who had two hits, snapped a 4-4 tie with two outs in the fifth, hitting his 20th homer. Torres’ 417-foot shot into the leftfield bleachers in the sixth, the 22-year-old’s 29th homer of the season, made it 6-4. Back-to-back homers by Didi Gregorius and Torres in a span of three pitches in the fourth had given the Yankees a 4-2 lead. 

Zack Britton's wild pitch made it 6-5 in the eighth, but with runners on first and third and one out, he got Kevin Plawecki to ground into a double play. Aroldis Chapman worked a perfect ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances. 

While Boone said of the umpires creating a problem by looking into the dugout that “it felt like that happened today,” he acknowledged the obvious, too.

“It is our job, too, to play under control,” he said, “and as best we cannot cross lines because certainly we don’t want players getting kicked out of games. I don’t like getting kicked out of games. But when you’re playing for a lot and you’re locked like we are, sometimes in the heat of battle, you get a little passionate and it can spill over a little bit.” 

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