NEW YORK -- Upon recording what he believed to be a called third strike against Dansby Swanson in the fifth inning on Monday night, Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt skipped off the Citi Field mound, dropped his head, and took a half dozen steps toward the dugout before realizing the surprising truth. Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild had called the pitch a ball.
The pitch didn’t add any runs to the board in what became a 5-2 loss to the Braves, but it did cost Bassitt eight additional pitches in an otherwise fine outing. Fairchild felt badly enough about the incident that, as Bassitt walked off the mound a second time at inning’s end, the umpire caught his attention and patted his chest as if to say: “My bad.”
“I knew it was a strike, but at the same time, I think umpires, they have one of the hardest jobs in the world,” Bassitt said. “I have no problem if an umpire misses a call. That happens. But especially if an umpire just accepts that, well, what am I going to say? It is what it is. I say all the time that it was a strike, and then I go back and look at it, and they’re right. So I ain’t going to be mad at no umpire, I’ll tell you that.”
Given his outlook on the situation, Bassitt apologized to Fairchild as well, believing his strut off the mound constituted “showing him up.”
“He said he was wrong. I said I was wrong,” Bassitt said. “I was like, ‘All right. Let’s move on.’”
While Bassitt appreciated the mutual apology, it didn’t do much to ease the sting from a game in which he threw a quality start, but lost in spite of it. One mistake came on an Austin Riley home run in the fourth inning, another on a Travis d’Arnaud double in the sixth. Otherwise, Bassitt was excellent, departing with a 2.61 ERA.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Mets bench coach Glenn Sherlock, who was filling in for suspended manager Buck Showalter.
Sherlock went on to laud Bassitt for how he handled the exchange with Fairchild, a veteran umpire who has worked in MLB for more than a decade. In the past, Bassitt said, he hasn’t been able to talk with umpires on a regular basis. But since last year, when umpiring duties expanded to include regular “sticky stuff” checks as pitchers enter or leave the field, Bassitt has used those opportunities to gain a rapport with the folks who call balls and strikes.
“You can kind of have a human element without the cameras being on you,” Bassitt said. “I enjoy when the home-plate umpire checks me, because I can talk with them almost off the record. I would say umpires are really good at admitting stuff, and they’re way better than I think people give them credit for.”