Once leading this American League championship series three games to none, now it is the New York Yankees who seem desperate, Alex Rodriguez resorting to a martial arts-like maneuver in an attempt to knock the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove in the eighth inning Tuesday night.
The ploy initially worked. Rodriguez, after dribbling a grounder toward first base with Derek Jeter aboard, chopped Arroyo's left forearm with his left hand and knocked the ball into foul territory, enabling Jeter to score with a run that would have trimmed Boston's lead to 4-3.
Arroyo and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz argued with umpire Randy Marsh, saying Rodriguez interfered with Arroyo. Boston manager Terry Francona also came out to argue the call, and the six-man umpiring crew convened to discuss the play.
"You could see Alex take a swipe at the ball," Francona said.
Plate umpire Joe West ruled Rodriguez out on interference, Jeter had to return to first, and Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to pop to the catcher to end the inning.
"Joe West did some outstanding umpiring," said Marsh, who was blocked out on the play. "As long as he is running normally, I mean -- you're going to have collisions like that. But he cannot intentionally wave, slap at the man and try to knock the ball out of his glove.
"I did not see Alex knock the ball out."
Marsh deferred to West, who told the other umps, "(Rodriguez) deliberately swiped at the ball. I saw it. I was sure of it."
Rodriguez's play raised a few eyebrows in the Red Sox clubhouse.
"Non-professional," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. "He's a better player than that. He's more professional than that."
Rodriguez said it did not make sense to him that he could knock a defender down but could not attempt to knock the ball out of his glove.
"The umpire said I could have run him over, but he was coming at me, and I know the line belongs to me," Rodriguez said. "He was reaching toward my stomach, and I feel I can knock it out."
Some angry fans in the crowd of 56,128 threw baseballs onto the field, and the game was delayed for about 10 minutes. Police officers, wearing helmets, lined the foul lines in the ninth to prevent further incidents.
RULE THAT APPLIED TO RODRIGUEZ PLAY
From the Official Baseball Rules:
Rule 2.00. Interference:
(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at-bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. In the event the batter runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch.
From the MLB Umpire Manual:
Section 6.1 (Offensive Interference):
While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious . . . act such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms, etc. to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases.