BOSTON — Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez apparently saw something others didn’t.
Hernandez called a balk on Red Sox starter Wade Miley in the fifth inning of Boston’s 8-6 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday at Fenway Park. The call wasn’t exactly the difference in the game — it enabled the Yankees to tie the score 3-3 — but it was questionable at best. And Miley, who was frustrated, collapsed in the following inning, so perhaps it was in some way detrimental to the Sox.
“He said I stepped toward home,” Miley said. “But I looked at some video. It is what it is.”
Brian McCann, who homered in the second inning, opened the fifth inning with a double and advanced to third base when Chase Headley singled. McCann scored when Hernandez called a balk on Miley, who tossed what seemed like a harmless pickoff throw to first base as Didi Gregorius dug in.
“He said he made a movement toward home plate, and that wasn’t even his best (pickoff) move,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the disputable call. “When the home plate umpire calls it and the first base umpire is staring (Miley) right in the face on it … Wade has one of the best pickoff moves in the game, and in my mind, it was not a balk.”
It was strange to see Hernandez make such a call when first base umpire Pat Hoberg seemingly had no issue with Miley’s pickoff attempt. As Farrell mentioned, it wasn’t even an aggressive move by Miley. The left-hander more or less flipped a throw to first baseman Travis Shaw to keep Headley in check.
“I actually really didn’t even go with a balk move there. I’m not sure what he saw,” Miley said. “But obviously he said he saw something.”
It was less strange when one considered the source, as Hernandez isn’t known as the best umpire on the block. But while Miley, to his credit, prevented any more runs from scoring in the fifth inning, the veteran hurler still wasn’t thrilled about the call. He then surrendered two doubles and a single in the sixth inning as the Yankees scored three runs to take a 6-3 lead.
“I just didn’t execute pitches at all,” Miley said of his sixth-inning struggles, suggesting the balk didn’t affect him mentally despite its proximity to the pitcher’s collapse. “I was leaving fastballs over the middle. I know I made a couple of mistakes. I don’t know if they were sitting soft or what, but even the breaking balls, I just didn’t get them down and they were able to get swings on them.
“Just execution,” he added. “Just a matter of locating a pitch where you want it. Just didn’t get it there.”
Miley was charged with six earned runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings while suffering his eighth loss. No one should blame the defeat entirely on the fifth-inning balk, but it sure didn’t help matters. The last thing a team fighting tooth and nail to make up ground in the American League East needs is blown calls working against it. And sure enough, Hernandez left his fingerprints all over Sunday’s first-half finale.
Maybe he just got too much sun or something.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images