Orioles manager Buck Showalter and shortstop J.J. Hardy used the same logic and arguments to defend starter Jason Hammel, who earned his first career ejection today in the fourth inning after surrendering three consecutive home runs and hitting Matt Tuiasosopo with the next pitch.
The ball kept slipping out of Hammel’s hand today, especially when he tried to throw his slider. And if you’re going to drill a batter on purpose, you do it with a fastball to make the intent perfectly clear.
“Just felt like after three home runs, it’s a real quick decision,” Showalter said following a 10-3 loss to the Tigers before 38,945 at Camden Yards. “I’m not real sure, Ham had probably 10 to 12 balls slip out of his hand today. Breaking balls. It’s tough on umpires trying to judge intent, but they get a lot of pressure from the major league offices. But obviously we’re biased, very biased. I understand what the umpire’s trying to do, but it’s very tough for them to judge intent.
“You can issue a warning there. Obviously, three balls left the park and then a breaking ball hits the guy. You put yourself in their shoes and put yourself in our shoes. That’s what I try to do. I can’t speak for the umpire (Hunter Wendelstedt). I understand the intent of what they’re trying to do. But I’ve got a real biased opinion of it, and it’s pretty obvious to us there was nothing intentional about it.
“You see the ball slipping out of his hand... I know you’ve seen guys trying to get by with doing that with a breaking ball, but most guys that I’ve ever seen do it want to make sure everyone knows. If you’re doing that, you’re going to throw a fastball, not a breaking ball.”
Hardy agreed with Showalter and said he was surprised by the ejection.
“I mean, at any point after three homers in a row, you don’t really want to throw anything up and in, but it’s a slider,” Hardy said.
“If maybe he thought it was a fastball at first, then yeah, you’ve got to be gone. But it’s a slider. There’s no excuse. No one’s going to try to hit someone with a slider. Umpires were saying that’s just trying to disguise it, but if you’re going to hit somebody, you’re doing it to prove a point. You’re throwing a fastball. I don’t see anybody throwing at somebody with a slider. And not only that, he threw probably three or four sliders that got away from him that were up and in before that. It wasn’t like he had perfect command with it all day and then he throws it there. I was a little surprised, yes.”
Hammel had to be restrained as he continued arguing with Wendelstedt. It’s the angriest that Hardy has seen his teammate.
“Yeah, and with good reason,” Hardy said. “He wants to stay in the game. He’s a guy that, maybe he just gave up three homers, but he wants to stay in the game as long as he can and let us hopefully come back for him.”
Hardy tried to make it happen by homering twice off Justin Verlander.
“Both of my at-bats were lead-off-the-inning at-bats,” Hardy said. “Everyone knows he’s a much, much different pitcher when he’s got people on base. My third at-bat off him, I had people on base and the first pitch was 98 mph and I was like, either I pissed him off or he’s a different pitcher with people on base. I think that’s just the way he is. He saves his good stuff, his really good stuff, for when he needs it.”
Losing Hammel frustrated Hardy because the Orioles only trailed 4-1 and still had a reasonable shot to win.
“And we’ve scored some runs when he pitches, so if he stays in there and holds them there, I think it’s an entirely different ballgame,” Hardy said.
“Tough loss. Wish we could have gotten a W. We’re still hacking. You look at who’s on the mound. Obviously, one of the best guys. We’re up there hacking, just trying to put up as many runs. It’s just tough to overcome that eight-run fourth.”
And just as tough for the Orioles to accept Hammel’s ejection.
“It’s an emotional time because he knows we need him to pitch,” Showalter said. “He’s certainly not going to do something there to jeopardize... He’s very frustrated about what happened and the way it was deemed.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland agreed that Hammel didn’t intend to hit Tuiasosopo.
“I don’t think he was throwing at him at all,” Leyland said. “It looked like a curveball that he threw. I don’t think he was throwing at him. However, in defense of the umpire, he might not have known it was a curveball, because in the shadows it was tough to see. No, in my heart, I do not think he was throwing at him.”
Crew chief Jerry Layne offered an explanation to a pool reporter.
“126.96.36.199 - Rulebook says that the umpire can deem if the pitch is intentional, especially at the head, there’s no warnings that need to be given,” he said. “There was no warnings prior to, and after you eject a player like that, then every pitcher entering the game and both sides, both managers are warned that any type of retaliation will be dealt with. It doesn’t mean that someone gets hit that they’re automatically ejected. In the rulebook, it even states that when a pitcher hits (a batter) high in the shoulder - that ricocheted off his helmet. That’s when we feel we have to control the game, and to control the game to keep a retaliation from occurring, that’s what happens.”
Layne said location of the pitch “doesn’t necessarily play into it, but in this particular situation, everything’s kind of played into what this looks like. They claim there was no intent. Three home runs and a guy gets hit, you’re an umpire, what do you do?”