NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira didn't need to hear Dana DeMuth's ruling. He didn't even need to see a replay. He knew exactly what was going to happen. And he was right.
In the eighth inning of the Astros' 5-3 Opening Day win over the Yankees, with the score tied at 2, Houston shortstop Carlos Correa dribbled a ball down the first-base line. Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances ranged and threw to Teixeira covering first, but his throw was high and second baseman Jose Altuve was able to score from second on the error.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi took issue -- later signaling that the Yankees would play the rest of the game under protest -- arguing that Correa ran out of the basepath. Replays appeared to support Girardi's claim, showing Correa running on the infield grass. Girardi came onto the field to argue with DeMuth, the home-plate umpire and crew chief, that Correa's path to first interfered with Betances' throw.
"I knew exactly that they weren't going to call it," Teixeira said. "I've played long enough to know that unless there's some sort of interference [it won't be called.] But if the ball gets thrown into the outfield, they're never going to call it. So I kept my mouth shut. I let Joe have his piece, but I knew exactly what they were going to say."
"He's fine unless he impedes or hinders the first baseman or actually a fielder from making a play at first base, and he didn't," DeMuth said in reference to Correa being in the infield grass. "That ball was so high that, in my judgment, that was just an error, a bad throw."
Teixeira likened the play to a pass interference call in football. It is illegal to interfere with a receiver when he's attempting to catch a pass, but if the ball is thrown out of bounds in a place where no player can make a catch, there is no interference. Since Betances' throw was so far off line, an umpire in DeMuth's situation has no choice but to rule the play legal, according to the letter of the law.
That is where Girardi seemed bent on making his point heard. The skipper said the rule needs to be revisited, and possibly rewritten, because of the alternative; Betances' only other choice was to throw directly at Correa's back.
"What's Dellin's option there? Throw it and hit him in the back? Is that really what we want," Girardi said. "I don't think there's really a lot of options for Dellin. I think it's interference, but the rule reads the way it does and we have to live with it."
Had Betances hit Correa in the back with the ball, Correa would have been ruled out. And in Girardi's mind, baseball should not promote plays that could possibly lead to injuries or discord.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch stayed neutral regarding DeMuth's decision.
"From the interpretation, I think it's difficult on both sides," Hinch said. "I think you would have found that it would have been argued on both sides, because it's a tough judgment call on whether or not it impeded anything. But we certainly took advantage of the break."
Correa had a completely different outlook. Not only did he believe that the play shouldn't have been ruled interference, he thinks that the error should've been ruled a hit in his favor because of the "bang-bang" nature of the play. Correa said he isn't sure where he was on the basepaths because of how quickly everything happened, but he also said he was aware that Betances should have thrown at his back instead of to the bag.
Teixeira didn't blame Betances, saying that it would've taken a savvy, 10-to-15-year veteran to be able to interpret that complicated of a rule on the fly at that speed.
But to Betances, the play supplied him with a new kind of savvy, a savvy that goes back to the root of what Girardi doesn't want.
"Next time I'll just try to hit him," Betances said. "If I have to hit him in the back, I guess I'll hit him in the back."