TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie can expect a suspension from Major League Baseball for throwing his helmet -- hitting home plate umpire Bill Miller -- after a called third strike in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Lawrie looked at a high full-count pitch from Tampa closer Fernando Rodney and started trotting to first base when he realized that Miller had called him out. Lawrie had also headed toward first after the 3-1 pitch that he thought was ball four.
Miller may have thought that Lawrie was showing him up after the second strike was called and therefore did not give him the benefit of the doubt on the next pitch.
“I’m not sure if he did or not,” Lawrie said. “That’s totally not the way I wanted to come across. I just thought it was ball four and started running. I wasn’t going to just stand there and look at him waiting for him to make the call. Turns out it was a strike and I had to come back and do it all over again.”
The final pitch of the at-bat appeared borderline high and perhaps outside, and Lawrie headed toward first again.
After realizing he had been rung up, the Jays third baseman lost his composure, pulled the helmet off his head and slammed it to the ground at Miller’s feet. The helmet bounced and struck Miller on the leg.
“I believe (the helmet hit him),” Lawrie said. That was not my intention at all. I’ve never, ever done anything to an umpire before in my life and I didn’t mean to tonight. I apologize for that. It took an unlucky bounce and I think it got him, so I apologize for that.
“I’m not going to say I’ve never had a dispute (with an umpire) but I’ve never thrown anything or gotten even close to an umpire like that, or ever put an umpire in danger. That’s just not what I’m out there to do. It’s just my passion for the game. I wanted to help my teammates out the best I could.”
Lawrie had to be restrained by manager John Farrell. Both men were ejected from the game.
“It felt like the bat was taken completely out of Brett’s hands,” Farrell said. “Those are not strikes, evident by the reaction of obviously Brett and myself. It was a tough ball game to lose and we’ve got to regroup and get ready to go for New York tomorrow.”
Lawrie’s outburst may not have been justified, but it reflected the frustration Toronto felt after squandering a lead for their seventh loss in 10 games.
“How we went out ahead and they came back. We wanted to win that game and it’s never over until it’s over,” Lawrie said. “To go into the ninth with one out and I come up and try to work the count to get on base for my teammates and move up a base and hopefully score to tie the game up. That’s what I was out there to do. I just felt it was ball four. It just went against me.”
For awhile this season, the Jays displayed some impressive Gold Glove-calibre defence. More recently, their gloves have turned to cold, hard steel, and the clanks have been coming fast and furious.
Two crucial errors in the seventh inning resulted in three Tampa runs that overcame Toronto's early 3-1 advantage and spoiled what had been a strong performance by starter Henderson Alvarez.
Sean Rodriguez led off with a solo homer to cut the Toronto lead to 3-2. After Rhymes singled, slow-footed Jose Molina hit a soft liner toward the shortstop, a guaranteed double-play ball, but Yunel Escobar couldn’t find the handle and all runners were safe. Elliot Johnson followed with a single to left. In his haste to try and get the out at home plate, Rajai Davis did not field Johnson's hit cleanly, allowing Rhymes to score. A wild pitch moved up both runners before a Ben Zobrist infield single loaded the bases. Alvarez got a double-play ball from B.J. Upton, allowing Tampa to score the go-ahead run. Darren Oliver came out of the bullpen to get the third out.
A common theme running through the Jays' recent woes was the team's inability to limit walks and errors.
Alvarez didn’t allow a walk in this one, but he and his mates made four errors to jump into the American League lead in that category with 37 miscues.
Zobrist led Tampa's 12-hit attack with three hits while three other Rays had a pair.
But most of the key wounds to the Jays were self-inflicted.
All of Toronto’s runs came on back-to-back swings of the bat by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the third off Tampa starter David Price.