Sun-aided hit puts shadow on Severino outing

Carlos Beltran, who played key roles in the Yankees’ victories at Toronto Friday night and Saturday, was at the center of a negative situation in the third inning Sunday. His failure to catch a fly ball to right field kept the inning alive for the Blue Jays, who went on to score three runs.

Beltran lost Troy Tulowitzki’s drive in the glaring sun at Rogers Centre with the roof open as the ball glanced off his left hip. It was originally ruled an error by official scorer Marie-Claude Pelland-Marcotte, who eventually reversed her decision and credited Tulowitzki with a double.

The scoring change had a major effect on Luis Severino’s pitching line. After the Beltran play, which occurred with two out, Severino gave up a single to Josh Donaldson that scored the game’s first run and a long home run to center field by Jose Bautista (No. 28) for two more runs. Donaldson’s hit was the only one in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position for the Blue Jays in the series.

Had Pelland-Marcotte not reversed her ruling, all the runs against Severino’s record would have been unearned. Instead, they were earned and in my opinion deservedly so.

Such a play is an example of an age-old argument about who is responsible for a hitter reaching base in that circumstance. Talk about creating a team error for such situations has been going on since at least the 1960s, but Major League Baseball has always been reluctant to make any change. And for good reason, I say. Official scoring rules dictate that responsibility for base movement falls on an individual pitcher or fielder. That is an essential part of scoring a baseball game. A team error would be a copout for an indecisive scorer.

Fact is, it would be unfair to charge Beltran with an error when the elements made it impossible to see the ball. Such plays have been called hits regularly. The argument that Severino should not be penalized because he gave up a routine fly ball does not wash because the sun made it uncatchable. He still needs to get a third out and compounded the situation by giving up run-scoring hits to the next two batters. Those runs looked pretty earned to me. (One scoring rule that really irks me is when a pitcher is not charged with an earned run because of an error when it was he who made the error.)

Severino certainly recovered from that damaging inning and gave up only one hit and two walks with six of his nine strikeouts from the fourth through the sixth. The Yankees also got quality relief work by Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren but did not overcome what happened in the third inning.

The final was 3-1 Toronto with the Yankees’ only run coming on a solo home run in the sixth by Jacoby Ellsbury, who showed signs of coming out of a prolonged slump with a 5-for-14 (.357) series with a triple, a home run and two RBI.

So for all the strong work Severino has shown in his three starts he remains winless (0-2) despite a 3.18 ERA. On the other hand, Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison has a 12-2 record despite a 5.06 ERA. Hutchison has benefit from the largest run support of any starter in the American League (more than seven runs per game), although he did not have a bunch of runs to work with Sunday. The righthander limited the Yankees to two hits other than the Ellsbury homer and one walk with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

Winning two of the three games in Toronto took some of the sting out of being swept at home last weekend by the Blue Jays for the Yankees, who come home back in first place in the AL Ease by a half-game over the Blue Jays. These teams will face each other seven more times in September, so nothing definitive would have been settled this weekend anyway.

Yet even in losing four of the six games to the Jays over the past two weekends the Yankees displayed effective pitching with a 2.67 ERA over 54 innings against the majors’ most productive offense, an extremely positive development.

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