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It’s common for MLB pitchers to say they didn’t mean to hit an opposing batter, but Toronto Blue Jays reliever Yimi García has a valid excuse.
García gave up a game-tying three-run home run in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 6-5 chaotic loss to the New York Yankees and followed that up by hitting Josh Donaldson two pitches later, putting the go-ahead run on base with one out. The Blue Jays reliever was ejected from the game with no warning, as was pitching coach Pete Walker for arguing the call.
Yimi Garcia ejected for hitting Josh Donaldson in a tie game. Pete Walker also tossed.
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— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) May 11, 2022
As mentioned on the broadcast during the skirmish between the Blue Jays coaching staff and the mass of umpires that made the decision, context matters — it wouldn't make any sense for García to intentionally hit Donaldson on a 0-1 pitch in a tied game against a division rival.
García agreed with that assessment when discussing the incident on Wednesday, putting the blame instead on the baseball.
“Last night was some of the worst nights of my playing career regarding the baseballs,” García said through an interpreter. “It was embarrassing. The balls that we’re using right now, for me, it’s bad. The balls are really bad, very slippery, and I can’t believe it.”
Donaldson didn't believe he was hit on purpose, but can understand why it may have appeared that way.
"The situation of the game, like tie score, I’d normally I’d say no,” Donaldson said. “It wasn’t the first time it went at my head, but being in the box, obviously going back and looking at it, you don’t see too many balls thrown right at somebody like that. He was kind of put in a tough position there, the umpire. Home run tied the game up, two pitches later — in my heart of hearts, I don’t think that it was, but it didn’t look good on television, that’s for sure.”
There have been gripes about the ball all season long, with home run rates down, runs per game at its lowest point since 1981 and grip issues that have raised concerns among players and coaching staffs across the league. Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt was among the most vocal, saying MLB has a "very big problem" and that they "don't give a damn about it."
According to The Athletic, MLB sent a memo to all 30 teams in March saying that no changes were made to the ball for 2022 and that only balls manufactured after 2021 will be used this season. MLB did, however, make it mandatory for all stadiums to store the balls in humidors this season in an attempt to standardize conditions and get balls to behave more consistently. Only 10 teams used humidors in 2021. MLB is also currently working on the development of a new gripping agent after cracking down on "performance enhancing" substances like Spider Tack last season.
The Blue Jays followed up Tuesday's disappointing result with another loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, who completed a mini two-game sweep to move 6.0 games clear of Toronto atop the AL East.
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