The Guardians may have suffered a walk-off loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon, but the games disappointing outcome was overshadowed by the events that came just before, during and after the contest’s resolution.
The Guardians held a 4-3 lead going to the bottom of the ninth inning as closer Emmanuel Clase took the hill to put the game away. Clase would walk lead-off man Josh Donaldson before retiring Aaron Hicks via strikeout and Joey Gallo via line-out. But while one out away from victory, Clase would falter. Gallo would be followed by Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa who sent a lined shot to left-field that Steven Kwan tried to contend with. Kwan couldn’t make the play and was shaken up after colliding with the outfield wall, the outcome resulting in a double for Kiner-Falefa and a tied ballgame.
But following this game-tying play would be when outside events would begin to overshadow actual baseball. While trying to collect himself in the aftermath, certain imbeciles among the New York faithful in the outfield stands began to hurtle insults at Kwan and cheer at the prospect of him being injured. We know this to be the case, confirmed by fellow Guardians outfielder Myles Straw who didn’t take kindly to the fans’ behavior and began to climb the outfield fence and give the fans a piece of his mind.
Still, Kwan sorted himself and the Guardians’ rookie who is literally leading the world in On Base Percentage stayed in the ballgame, not allowing his bruises nor the fools in the crowd to phase him. Cooler heads prevailed, Straw retook his post in center-field and the game resumed.
Returning to the action with the game tied, Clase was not able to cut the rally short, as pinch hitter Gleyber Torres sent his own line drive to deep right-center field. The ball landed perfectly between Straw and right-fielder Oscar Mercado and once it landed safely the game’s outcome was a foregone conclusion. Kiner-Falefa crossed home as a matter of formality and the Yankees dugout stormed out to congratulate Torres between first and second base. Yankees win, 5-4 with walk-off heroics.
What was occurring in the outfield stands at the same time though was the direct opposite of heroic. In fact, it was downright despicable. Likely fueled by too many overpriced beers, a small number of Yankees fans began pelting Mercado with garbage. I know… that is quite the accusation. For all we know, the trash was actually just what these particular people are made of and was falling off of them accidentally. The footage doesn’t lie though. It sure seems like there was actual intent to hit Mercado with their projectiles.
For Mercado’s part, maybe the prudent thing to do would have been to turn the other cheek, engaging the idiots likely isn’t going to lead to any good. Mercado may not have done that, but I have to say that I respect what he did instead. He turned and without looking phased began to confront the fans, shouting at them from the warning track and literally catching one of the bottles out of thin air that had been chucked at him (power move if I’ve ever seen one). With Straw at his side, both of them said their peace to the fans that had decided that a Yankees victory was the perfect time to make jerks of themselves. In short order, what appeared to be a team official came and began to grab Mercado and deter him away from further action.
Just as impressively, Josh Naylor and Franmil Reyes hustled to the outfield to their teammates’ defense and to defuse the situation. Both of these guys deserve acknowledgment, but there’s something especially human about Reyes knowing his services were needed at this moment. From all accounts, Reyes seems like a gentle giant, someone who would rather laugh and be positive but is well aware of the fact that he is a very large and intimidating man. I’ve never even been in the same room as Reyes, let alone talked to him, but his outward persona suggests that he only uses that grand stature for good. It feels very in character for him to be out there for his guys. I’d believe it if they said they appreciate having Big Fran in the clubhouse.
Additionally, it deserves acknowledgment that the Yankees stopped celebrating their walk-off win and came out to the outfield to help restore order too. Namely, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton– two guys that would find themselves in the same weight and character class as Reyes- came out to tell the dummies in the stands to knock it off. With Mercado walking away and enough players in uniform talking down the fans, the situation came to a close.