Orioles reliever Darren O'Day earned his first career ejection Monday in the ninth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners after a balk call erased a popout by slugger Nelson Cruz. Manager Buck Showalter was ejected soon thereafter.
It turned out to be the second act in an ongoing drama between O’Day, Showalter and home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater, who called O’Day for the only other balk of his career on April 30, 2017, against the New York Yankees. That was also the occasion of Showalter’s last ejection.
“He’s just overumpiring,” Showalter said. “Inventing an argument. Doesn’t have to be. Same thing happened in New York.
“And you’ve got the third base umpire looking at it, second base umpire looking at it, the first base umpire can’t see. And seeing something … basically, just creating an argument that shouldn’t be there. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully, the league will get it corrected.”
O'Day, making his 576th career appearance, had allowed a leadoff single to Mitch Haniger before Cruz worked the count full. On a 3-2 pitch, the former Orioles slugger popped out into foul territory by the Orioles dugout.
After Chris Davis caught it, Scheurwater signaled that O'Day had committed a balk.
“I’m just walking back to the mound and I heard Nelson talk to Haniger and I was like, ‘What could he be talking about?’ ” O’Day said. “I was looking around, and Stu told me I didn’t stop. After that, I don’t remember what he said. I lost it. ... I have two balks, and this is my 11th season, and they are both in the last year when he’s behind the plate focusing on balls and strikes. And he’s balked me twice for an inside move that hasn’t been a balk any other time in 10 years.
“To be fair, I’ve been warned to stop before That’s usually how most umpires handle it. They say, ‘Hey, O’Day, make sure you come to a stop.’ Sure, no problem. So I respect the hell out of umpires. They have a hard job. They really do. But I don’t know what’s going on. I still don’t even know for sure who called it because nobody held their hands up or called time or yelled balk or anything. A fan could have yelled balk. I don’t know. Or the other team. I don’t really know because nobody explained it to me.”
Crew chief Gary Cederstrom told a pool reporter that Scheurwater had to wait for the play to complete before signaling, hence the confusion on the field.
“The plate umpire called the balk, and then the pitch came in, so obviously, he can't be standing up and pointing — he's got a pitch coming in, because the play is not over yet,” Cederstrom said. “Then the ball was hit, and you still have to let the play go through because the hitter has got an opportunity to hit and reach base.”
“Then after that is when Stu informed that he had a balk. … So once the out is recorded, then Stu came out and said: ‘I've got a balk, and the runner goes to second base, and the hitter gets to come back to the plate.’ ”
The veteran reliever earned his ejection by yelling in the umpire's face.
Scheurwater told the pool reporter that O’Day was ejected for “his choice of words directed at me,” while noting that O’Day “did say that that’s twice we’ve had a situation, yes.”
O’Day apologized to his mother for “all those swear words I used.” Showalter earned his 32nd career ejection because “he continued to argue,” Scheurwater said.
“That’s pretty much how it goes down,” he said.
The trio has been through this before. On April 30, 2017, with runners on first and second in a 4-2 game against the Yankees in New York, O'Day threw a pickoff throw to second base into the outfield. Center fielder Adam Jones backed up the throw, holding the runners at their respective stations.
But Scheurwater called a balk — the first of O'Day's career — and the Yankees went on to tie the game before the Orioles won in 11 innings. Showalter was ejected that day, too, and said the history certainly played a part in what happened Monday.
“He’s had two balks in his whole career, I think,” Showalter said. “Both have been by the same guy. That would probably upset you, too.”
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O'Day's balk Monday was the second of his career, though no runs came across after the ejection. Zach Britton loaded the bases and started a 1-2-3 double play to end the ninth.
The Orioles also contended that Britton was unreasonably rushed while warming up on the mound.
“Probably what bothers me the most is the guy out there rushing Zach to get ready,” Showalter said. “I will talk to the league office about that. That's totally unacceptable and unprofessional.”
“The most unfortunate part about it was, after I lost it and got ejected, Zach had to come in and pitch,” O’Day said. “And then they rushed him warming up, which is just ludicrous because he was probably sitting down there chewing, not even thinking he’s going to pitch.”
Britton said “they were obviously trying to get action going again.
“He just kept coming and saying, ‘How many more do you need? How many more do you need? How many more do you need?’ So it was, ‘Let’s just get it going,’ which is terrible. I mean, I didn’t even sweat until Denard Span got in the box. And you’re in a situation where you can’t just lay something over the plate. Thank God Caleb has caught me before, and I just spiked balls in the dirt.”
“It’s a tough situation,” Britton said. “It’s not Darren’s fault. It’s just a situation where the guy should just be able to warm up in the bullpen and then go into the game.”