The big news Monday night was that the Orioles won again and have reduced their magic number for clinching the American League East to one over the Toronto Blue Jays. The New York Yankees have been eliminated from the division title hunt.
With the Orioles' next win, the champagne corks pop and the club secures its first AL East crown since 1997.
The subplot from Monday was perhaps more intriguing.
In the fifth inning, veteran infielder Jose Reyes came dashing home on a single and catcher Caleb Joseph attempted to tag him out. Fairly routine play.
Joseph, however, appeared to step on Reyes’ hand as he tried to apply the tag, and Reyes believed that was avoidable. They chirped at each other as the play ended.
“When that happened, I felt like he stepped on my hand with no reason,” Reyes said after the game. “Stuff happens in the middle of the game, a lot of energy, and I got a little bit hot there scoring a run. I thought he stepped on my hand. That’s in the past.”
It was in the present in the sixth inning with Joseph at the plate and Toronto rookie Marcus Stroman on the mound. The 23-year-old’s first pitch to Joseph was a 92-mph fastball head-high and just behind the Orioles catcher. It was a scary moment, and home plate umpire Ted Barrett immediately issued warnings to both benches. Orioles manager Buck Showalter argued that Stroman should have been ejected immediately.
“Let's face it, he's 23 years old, emotional, you see him coming off the mound doing his little whatever,” Showalter said of Stroman. “I'll let Toronto take care of that, and I'm sure the league office will do what needs to be done. Caleb made a perfectly legal play the way it's supposed to be done. I'm still trying to figure out what they're mad about. Caleb is right where he was supposed to be.”
Showalter sounded off on head-hunting, bringing up recent examples of the New York Yankees' Chase Headley and the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton being beaned.
“You've got keep some sanity. I have probably had more conversations over the years telling somebody not to do something. I've never told somebody to throw at somebody,” Showalter said. “You let your emotions take over and all of a sudden someone's lying at home plate in a pool of blood with a blow to the head. How really manly do you feel? Was it really worth it?
"If you don't have the command to throw the ball where you're supposed to to deliver a message, then you shouldn't be throwing at all there. It really pushed the hot button with all of us because it certainly wasn't called for. That was obvious. It was borderline professionally embarrassing.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons offered a “no comment” after the game, and Stroman gave the typical “it slipped” defense.
“Fastball in that kind of slipped out of my hand. It’s late in the game, I got two big strikeouts, I’m a little excited and trying to get out of the inning, I know it’s possibly my last hitter,” Stroman said. “I tried to execute a fastball in, I know if I throw that pitch in that location I have a chance to get out of that inning pretty quick, maybe one, two pitches, and it just kind of slipped out of my hand.”
Here’s what Joseph said about the pitch: “There’s life outside of baseball, you know? I have a wife and a baby on the way. Those are the type of things that go through your head when that kind of stuff happens. I am glad it didn’t hit me. So, yeah, there’s a code. Every baseball player knows there’s a code. I’m not the judge here to judge intent or any of that stuff. I’m just glad it didn’t hit me.”
Joseph said he didn’t know if he stepped on Reyes’ hand.
“Not sure. It all happened so fast. All I knew is we had a play at the plate,” Joseph said. “I tried to put myself in a position at home plate there, and we’ve been communicating a lot of things and trying to get in the right position, and I felt like I was in a good position. The throw came in and I tried to make a tag.”