Baserunning Blunder, Balk Doom Yankees in Baltimore

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Simply put, nothing went right for the Yankees in Baltimore on Monday night.

Not only did the Yankees muster just four hits and one run against the Orioles—falling 4-2 in the series opener—but two decisive calls on bang-bang plays didn't go their way. 

Down three runs in the top of the eighth, the Yankees had their best run-scoring opportunity of the game. With the bases loaded and two outs, Gio Urshela delivered, hooking a base hit down the third-base line. 

Clint Frazier scored from third with ease as DJ LeMahieu scampered around from second behind him. It was the kind of play the Yankees have been looking for seemingly all season: a clutch base hit to build momentum and keep a timely rally in motion.

Instead of cutting the deficit to just one run, however, Aaron Judge committed baseball's cardinal sin. The right fielder was thrown out by left fielder Austin Hays at third base. 

To make matters even worse, the umpiring crew in Baltimore ruled that Judge was tagged out by Maikel Franco before LeMahieu touched home plate. Therefore, only one run scored on the play and the inning was over. 

After deliberating with the coaching staff, manager Aaron Boone intended to challenge the play, but first-base umpire Greg Gibson told the skipper that he ran out of time, disallowing New York's plea.

Boone erupted, sprinting out of the dugout toward Gibson to voice his displeasure. He was quickly thrown out of the game, Boone's first ejection of the season. 

"It seemed so early to me," Boone said after the game. "Usually I have a good rhythm where I look with [bench coach Carlos Mendoza] and I'm holding them off. Apparently [Gibson] said something and then when I went to turn and challenge, it was too late."

Judge owned up to the miscue between second and third after the loss as well. 

"Trying to play aggressive, make something happen. But in that situation, I gotta stay a second base and kind of keep the inning rolling," he said. "Gotta play a little smarter baseball there."

As much as the slugger thought he was safe, swimming around the tag, he admitted that the replay would likely have shown him being out at third. Boone even acknowledged that after getting a closer look at the tape, it wouldn't have been called in the Yankees' favor even if he did challenge the play. 

That doesn't mean the way Gibson and the umpires handled the situation sat well with the skipper, though.

"It was too quick," he said. "I just felt like it was kind of bullying, frankly."

That play in the eighth would've been even more important had this not happened in the sixth.

With runners on first and third, right-hander Darren O'Day was looking to get out of the jam unscathed. After getting the sign from Gary Sánchez behind the plate, O'Day twitched ever so slightly before stepping off of the rubber. It was ruled a balk, allowing the runner to score from third.

O'Day's balk, Judge getting tagged out and LeMahieu's foot descending onto home plate. The Yankees were a matter of inches away from this 4-2 loss turning into a completely different ballgame. 

Sure, the bigger issue here is New York's high-octane offense managing just three hits against Matt Harvey. Those offensive woes are far more serious than one tough loss in a long, 162-game campaign. 

Nonetheless, it goes down as a loss in the books as the last-place Yankees (9-13) fall further below .500, still searching for answers to start the season.

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