ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After this apparent fair ball, the Yankees cried foul.
Facing Rays lefthander Vidal Nuño to begin the ninth inning Sunday at Tropicana Field, Clint Frazier hit a drive down the leftfield line. He and the Yankees thought the ball had a good chance to stay fair and go over the wall for a home run that would have snapped a 6-6 tie.
Instead, it clanged off a speaker attached to the “B” ring, one of the catwalks that overhang the field, and dropped into the glove of shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria for an out.
“I thought it was going to be fair. It was definitely going to be a home run, too,” Frazier said after Jake Bauers’ walk-off homer off Chasen Shreve in the 12th inning gave the Rays a 7-6 victory.
Statcast estimated that Frazier’s drive, had it not hit the speaker, would have traveled 335 feet. The wall is 315 feet away.
“I got robbed,” Frazier said. “I thought it was going out. That’s kind of the way it felt coming off my bat.”
Aaron Boone briefly discussed it with plate umpire and crew chief Tom Hallion, but the play was officiated correctly. The Tropicana Field ground rules state that any ball hitting the “B” ring is in play.
“I don’t know how you can have a speaker in fair territory. That seems a little puzzling, but you have to roll with that,” Boone said. “It’s in the ground rules, so you just roll with it.”
Boone said that from his vantage point in the dugout, it was unclear whether the ball would have stayed fair. “We were trying to figure it out,” he said.
In a game here April 11, 2010, a sixth-inning pop-up by the Rays’ Evan Longoria turned into a single off A.J. Burnett when it hit off the “B” ring. Though the hit helped the Rays load the bases, they didn’t score in the inning in what became a 7-3 Yankees victory.
“It’s a baseball game and we have balls hitting off catwalks,” Mark Teixeira said afterward. “Come on. It’s laughable.”
Added Jorge Posada: “it’s not a baseball stadium. You can’t have balls going all over the place. That’s sad.”
Frazier wouldn’t argue with that. And the way the Yankees’ bullpen was performing — eight hitless, scoreless innings before Bauers homered to lead off the 12th — the feeling in the dugout was that if Frazier’s drive had left the yard, the game would have been over.
“It’s like hitting a bird in the sky, that’s what it felt like,” Frazier said. “It’s unfortunate because we’d be on the plane by now. It’s a hard one to swallow.”
Adding further insult, two batters after Frazier, Brett Gardner doubled off the top of the rightfield wall, inches away from a home run.
Frazier started the week filling in for Gardner, who missed five games with inflammation in his right knee. Gardner returned for this series, sending Frazier back to the bench. Until he pinch hit for Neil Walker in the ninth, that is.
“It’s disappointing because I’ve been preparing all week if I came up [to pinch hit],” Frazier said. “I finally got one and it hits the speaker. I did the best I could with it.”