Muncy’s ‘soccer flop’ halts Yanks' comeback bid

August 25th, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- With eight innings in the books, the Yankees' offensive attack had been boiled down to a single swing. That appeared to be turning in the ninth, with closer pinned into a one-out jam, focusing his attention on the runners dancing from first and second bases.

As toppled second baseman , who admitted to executing a "soccer flop" on the play, on a fielder's choice that would see him ruled safe after review, dashed from third with what he believed would be the tying run. Instead, the play was waved off, and two outs later the Yankees were unpacking a controversial 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

"I didn’t see any umpire call time, so I am just a little bit surprised I am back to third base," Torres said. "… For sure, I saw an opportunity to score.”

As the play was explained to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, home plate umpire Gabe Morales said that he called time when Jansen began waving his arms in response to Muncy writhing near second base. Replays showed that Torres was running when Morales held the play, but Boone said there was no recourse to have the umpires check that footage.

"Gabe said he killed it," Boone said. "Just looking back, Kenley held his hands up. It looked to me like Gleyber had already started down the line with a guy down on the field. The home plate umpire said he had killed it. … As far as I know, if he calls time, he called time."

Instead of Torres scoring the tying run, the Yankees had the bases loaded and were down one with one out. Jansen won the battle, striking out and to even the Interleague series -- and, as Gardner mentioned to some of the Dodgers, a possible World Series preview -- at one game apiece.

"Great atmosphere, playoff-like atmosphere," Gardner said. "Like I told those guys on second base in the last inning, 'Good luck the rest of the way, hope we see you guys again. Hope we come back to play again.' We had a great rally there in the end. We weren’t able to come through and get it done."

Muncy added some spice to the proceedings by acknowledging that while Gardner's slide had shaken him up, there was also a fair amount of what he called "a little soccer in there." Muncy believed that if he sold the play, the umpires would halt Torres and send him back to third base, which is exactly what happened.

"If I'm acting like I was hurt, they have to stop the play," Muncy said. "It's more just hoping they call it. If I get up and act like I'm not hurt, [Torres is] safe at home plate. One of those things. He still got me good, it still hurt, so it wasn't entirely fake, but there might have been a little acting class in there."

Asked if there was any chance of the Yankees filing a protest based on Torres' halted dash, Boone replied: "We'll certainly inquire with everyone and try to get a good explanation."

The last successful protest was in August 2014, when the league ruled that the Cubs' grounds crew did not get the tarpaulin on quickly enough, ordering that a game against the Giants be resumed from the point of delay. Prior to that, the league had not upheld a protest since 1986.

Take two

The ninth inning opened with earning praise for bunting a 3-1 Jansen pitch down the third-base line, attempting to exploit the Dodgers' shifted infield. It rolled foul and Gregorius tried again on two strikes. That also went foul for a strikeout, prompting a wave of second-guessing.

"If the first one was fair, it probably would have been a double, too," Gregorius said. "I try to get on base. I am a team player. Any way I can, I try to get on. If they question that, then that’s their problem."

Boone said that while he would not have ordered the two-strike bunt, he had no issue with Gregorius attempting one.

"It's a weird way to end, and I know that's a question," Boone said. "But I think when you really break down the play, I don't think it's a bad thought if you're confident in your ability to do it."

All Rise August

Judge's fourth-inning homer off Tony Gonsolin marked his second of the series and 15th of the year, a 424-foot blast that cleared the center-field wall. It was the Yanks' 58th in August, tying the Orioles (May 1987) and the Mariners (May 1999) for the most power production in a calendar month.

The O’s needed 28 games and the Mariners did it in 27 games, placing the Yanks (who tied it in just 23 games) in prime position to eclipse those marks with six more games on the slate this month.

CC you later

Saturday likely marked the final regular-season plate appearance of 's career, and the veteran can walk away knowing that he hit one on the screws. Sabathia grinned when told that his third-inning lineout to right field registered an exit velocity of 96.8 mph.

"It felt good coming off the bat," Sabathia said. "I don’t know if I hit it hard enough. But it was fun getting in the box."

On the mound, Sabathia showed signs of progress from his last start, holding the Dodgers to 's two-run homer and five hits over four innings. Sabathia walked one and struck out seven before leaving for a pinch-hitter.

"I felt my pitches were a little better," Sabathia said. "My changeup was a little better. I left the cutter up there for Turner, he homered on it. Everything else felt pretty good."