NEW YORK (AP) — Strange things happen in right field at Yankee Stadium.
In the latest playoff ruckus to arise in that small corner of the Bronx, the New York Yankees hit a pair of disputed drives over the fence in Game 4 of the AL championship series Tuesday night. One stood as a home run, while the other call was correctly overturned and ruled foul.
Texas hit four clear-cut home runs, and beat the Yankees 10-3 for a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.
With one out in the second inning, Robinson Cano hit a high fly that landed on the ledge atop the right-field wall and caromed into the seats. Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz jumped for the ball and came up short, then signaled that a fan in the front row wearing a Derek Jeter jersey had interfered with him.
“That’s what I thought, yeah,” Cruz said. “The fan touched my glove, no question.”
Right-field umpire Jim Reynolds ruled it a home run and stayed with the call after a brief argument by Rangers manager Ron Washington. Replays appeared to show that the fan did brush Cruz’s glove, but if the ball had already cleared the fence, that’s not fan interference.
Reynolds was sure he had the right call, so the umpires never considered taking a look at the video replay — and Washington didn’t push them.
Umpires decide whether to use replay on any given call. It’s completely at their discretion.
“From the angle I had, I was very confident that the ball was in the stands,” Reynolds said.
After the game, the umps watched a replay.
“Yes, we have, and the ball was in the stands,” crew chief Gerry Davis said.
The fan, 20-year-old Jared Macchirole, also thought the umps got it right.
“It was coming right towards me. I touched it after it hit the cement,” Macchirole said. “He was yelling at me but I wasn’t going to say anything. It was a home run.”
During a television interview later in the game, Washington told TBS broadcasters that the umpires thought the fan hadn’t “impeded” Cruz.
It was reminiscent of Jeter’s disputed homer at old Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against Baltimore, when 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the right-field fence with his mitt and reeled in a tying shot by Jeter in the eighth inning.
Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco, parked under the ball as it descended, argued vehemently, but umpire Rich Garcia called it a home run. The Yankees went on to win the game and the series.
Of course, that was long before Major League Baseball adopted instant replay late in the 2008 season to review whether potential homers clear fences and whether they are fair or foul. Fan interference on such balls is subject to review — but instant replay is only used for possible home runs.
Following a rash of missed calls during the past three postseasons, many people have called for expanded replay in baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig has resisted and said there isn’t much support among those he consults in the game. He said last month that umpires get about 98 percent of tough calls correct.
Selig, however, said he would continue to explore the issue. He was in attendance Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Two batters after Cano’s home run put New York up 1-0, Lance Berkman hit a long shot down the right-field line that Reynolds originally ruled a home run. Washington argued and a group of umps went inside to look at replays, which clearly showed the ball hooked foul.
Moments later, the umpires returned to the field and reversed the call. The Yankees never argued.
“In that situation, I wasn’t confident of what I had, and we got together and we went to the replay,” Reynolds said.
It was the third video review in postseason history and second this year. Chase Utley’s home run for Philadelphia was upheld in Cincinnati on Oct. 10. Last year, Alex Rodriguez’s apparent double in Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia was correctly changed to a home run.
There was another key call in the eighth, with the Yankees trying to rally from a 7-3 deficit. Nick Swisher was batting with the bases loaded and one out when it appeared an 0-1 pitch from Darren Oliver nicked him on the right foot.
Swisher, who tried to jackknife out of the way, protested a bit to plate umpire Angel Hernandez, but the pitch was called a ball. Swisher flied out on the next pitch.
“We looked at it. Obviously in Angel’s judgment the ball had not hit him and we looked at the replay and even from different angles, it’s inconclusive,” Davis said.
With two on in the fifth, Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton hit a foul popup to the left-field side that deflected off the hands of a fan in the front row — perhaps preventing Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner from making a running catch.
The crowd of 49,977 chanted an obscenity at the fan, who nearly became the Steve Bartman of the Bronx, before Hamilton flied out to end the inning. The fan declined comment.
It was Bartman who famously deflected a foul popup away from Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou in the 2003 NL championship series, preceding a Florida Marlins rally at Wrigley Field that cost the Cubs their first trip to the World Series since 1945.
Alou, furious at the time, later acknowledged he probably couldn’t have caught the ball anyway.
As for Macchirole, he said he didn’t have Cano’s home run ball — though reporters could see a ball stashed in his pocket.
AP freelance writer Adriano Torres contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.