A day a young catcher will never forget
Why do fans do it? Is getting a baseball at a game more important than your team getting a crucial out in that game?
The outcome of Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium was put severely at risk by a fan along the first base rail just beyond the dugout who got in the way of first baseman Mark Teixeira trying to catch a foul ball in the ninth inning with one out, a runner at first base while the Yankees were clinging to a one-run lead and none other than Albert Pujols at the plate.
“It’s not what you want to see,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I understand it. People want baseballs, but it’s not want you want to see in your ballpark.”
One pitch later, Mike Trout stole second base, putting the potential tying run in scoring position with Pujols given a second life and adding to the pressure of David Robertson trying to nail down his third save and his first in three weeks since coming off the disabled list.
D-Rob prevailed this time. He retired the latest member of the 500 Home Run Club on a routine fly ball to left field and then back from 3-0 in the count to perennial Yankee killer Howie Kendrick (.352 in 210 career at-bats) and struck him out.
The save by Mariano Rivera’s heir preserved an important victory for the Yankees coming off Friday night’s walloping and a memorable one for two of the team’s younger members. Backup catcher John Ryan Murphy drove in three runs with a clutch, two-run single in the second inning and his first major-league home run, leading off the fifth. It marked the first major-league victory for Dellin Betances, who pitched two shutout innings but was quick to credit the equally impressive relief work by Shawn Kelley, Matt Thoronton and Robertson.
“It makes it easier when you’ve caught someone before,” Murphy said. “I have said it before. When Betances is in the strike zone, he can be unhittable.”
“Collectively, the bullpen did a goof job,” Betances said. “The bullpen on the whole was great. We feed off each other.”
Betances also had nice things to say about his former Triple A Scranton batterymate, Murphy.
“He definitely did the job today,” Betances said. “We played together last year, and he became one of my best friends. He had a great game.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Girardi, a former catcher who well knows that games such as the 4-3 victory are savored by cachers.
“A huge day,” Girardi said about Murphy’s 2-for-3, three-RBI effort and work with starter Vidal Nuno and four relievers. “He did a great job behind the plate. [The home run] is special It’s and even means more because it was a one-run game. He’ll never forget it.”
Murphy impressed the Yankees with his work behind the plate last year as a September call-up and again this spring, but he did not begin the season on the major-league roster as the Yankees kept Francisco Cervelli to support starter Brian McCann. But when Cervelli went on the 60-day disabled list because of a hamstring strain, the call from Yankees came for Murphy over Austin Romine.
“I can’t say whether I was surprised or not because my attitude is that you always have to be ready,” Murphy said.
His two-run single came after a balk by Angels starter Hector Santiago that placed runners on second and third. The situation did not change Murphy’s approach, which was the same when he took Santiago deep off a first-pitch fastball for his home run.
“I want to be aggressive at the plate when I do play,” Murphy said. “The home run ball is going to my mom [Carolina]. I’ll let her decide what to do with it.”
Murphy did get the ball. He was on his way out of the clubhouse to meet the person in the stands who caught it and wanted to return it to him. At least one fan in the stands did the right thing.