Juuuuuust a bit outside
Complaining about officiating after a game is always annoying, but Yankees fans had a legitimate gripe after losing to the Rays on Thursday afternoon in the Bronx, 9–2.
Tampa Bay roughed up New York ace Gerrit Cole to the tune of five runs in five innings. Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, on the other hand, went the distance and allowed two runs on six hits, striking out six. (His complete game was the first by a Tampa Bay pitcher since 2016, snapping an MLB-record 731-game streak.)
Yarbrough is a weird pitcher. His primary pitch is a cutter that averages 82.6 mph and his hardest-thrown pitch, a sinker, is averaging 86.6 mph this season. His unorthodox repertoire (and his sidearm delivery) have made him one of the most reliable pitchers in the league since his debut in 2018, whether he’s deployed as the Rays’ opener or the “bulk guy.”
So it should come as no surprise that a struggling Yankees lineup was stymied by Yarbrough in Thursday’s loss, but he also had some help. Home plate umpire Chad Whitson really expanded the zone when Yarbrough was on the mound. This graphic from Baseball Savant (using data from MLB’s Statcast system) makes it abundantly clear.
Whitson was nearly perfect with Cole on the mound, but Yarbrough got several calls on pitches that were clearly off the plate. And the graphic shows only called strikes. It doesn’t include pitches that Yankees hitters swung and missed on or hit weakly after being forced to expand their strike zone to match Whitson’s.
That’s not to take anything away from Yarbrough. To be a good pitcher, you have to be capable of deceiving people with your pitches. If your delivery is so difficult to pick up that you end up deceiving the umpire, then you’re doing a great job. Until home plate umps are replaced by computers, there are going to be bad calls.
And in the meantime there are going to be managers who throw tantrums over bad calls and get ejected. After coming out on the field to make a pitching change in the seventh inning, Aaron Boone said something to Whitson and got tossed.
“I just expressed some things and got run,” Boone told reporters after the game. “I just wanted to get my point across. I thought there were some close pitches, but the Rays outplayed us [Thursday]. I just had some disagreements throughout the day with them and got run obviously when I went out to the mound. Probably said some things that I can’t get away with. That’s about it. That’s about the gist of it.”
The best of SI
No one can say Devin Booker is just a stat padder after the Phoenix Suns’ win over the Lakers. ... Is there any connection between the changes the NCAA is undergoing and the recent departure of some big-name college coaches? ... The East-leading Connecticut Sun look like contenders to reach the Finals again.
Around the sports world
Cleveland is narrowing down a list of 1,100 possible new team names. ... Diamondbacks announcer Bob Brenly won’t be on the air for a week after former Cubs star Aramis Ramírez said Brenly used to target Latinx players. ... The NFL is cracking down on usage of the painkiller Toradol.
Brad Marchand’s game-winner came from an impossible angle
Big, big upset for James Madison in its first WCWS game
The hit was absolutely not clean
Fernando Tatis Jr. is now tied for the league lead in homers
Great setup for the game-winner
A lot to unpack here
Slightly less dramatic than July 1, 2004
Retirement looks fun for the former Royals manager
I love when golfers have to dress in winter clothes for summer tournaments in San Francisco
A Filipino scientist traveled to the ocean’s third-deepest point and found a teddy bear. ... An odd phenomenon has enveloped a Chinese island in a thick layer of fog. ... A herd of elephants has arrived in a city in China after walking more than 300 miles. ... A Pennsylvania high school was evacuated after a “bobcat” was reported in the cafeteria. It was just a house cat. ... A parking spot in Hong Kong sold for a world-record $1.3 million.
An Anthony Bourdain documentary is coming to theaters on July 16
A good song
Email email@example.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.