Jordan Zimmermann was working on a no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday night when home plate umpire Nic Lentz gave him a strike against Gleyber Torres on a fastball that sure looked like it missed off the inside of the plate. Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was apparently already displeased with Lentz’s strike zone, had seen enough:
Here’s a conundrum. The best baseball video to become public in literally years contained rare audio of a heated exchange between a manager and an umpire. Watching it, it’s hard not to feel irritated at MLB that they don’t release these kinds of videos for every epic manager meltdown. The audio is incredible! Give us the audio! But it’s also undeniably true that if managers knew that clear audio would be made public of what they say to umpires during angry tirades, probably there would be far fewer angry tirades, and virtually none that contained anything half as wonderful as Tom Hallion’s “ass in the jackpot” defense.
The audio of Boone’s meltdown would almost certainly not be as interesting as that Terry Collins meltdown, at least in part because Lentz says a total of like six words, but I would very much like to hear it. At any rate, Boone’s tirade seemed to work, although not necessarily in the way it was intended:
“Everybody after that is super excited,” Torres said. “We started to have a little more excited play, play a little more hard. That was the difference.”
Torres struck out on the very next pitch, and Zimmermann escaped the inning with his no-hitter intact, but the reinvigorated Yankees lineup roughed him up in the sixth, to the tune of four runs on three dingers. Players were pretty clear that Boone’s delightful ejection gave them the spark:
“When your manager feels the same way that you are, and he goes out there and basically he told the umpire what he thought, of course that ended up to us having a big inning,” Hicks said.
It was such an effective strategy, in fact, that three innings later, with the Yankees down a run and with the bases loaded after a borderline check swing by Luke Voit was ruled ball four, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire tried out his own motivational meltdown, going after first-base umpire Paul Nauert:
This one was very nearly as fun—I’m really enjoying Gardenhire appearing to eject Nauert with the classic gesture as he makes his way steadily to first—but not quite as successful. Torres roped a go-ahead two-run single to left two pitches later, and the Yankees would go on to win, 7–5.