MLB is lucky last night’s Royals-Blue Jays game was a victory for the Jays, because if the Royals had pulled ahead late and Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been there to bat in the bottom of the ninth, all of Canada would be calling for home plate umpire John Hirschbeck’s head.
Between the seventh and eighth inning, Hirschbeck busted out one of the stranger ejections you’ll ever see, running Tulowitzki from the game as the shortstop was taking his position in the field. The two had a brief argument over a called third strike during the previous half inning, but it didn’t look like there was much else to precipitate the ejection:
Hirschbeck wasn’t available for comment after the game, and Tulowitzki claimed he was getting the stare-down from Hirschbeck as he took the field (via the Washington Post):
“I think it was obvious I didn’t agree with the called third strike,” Tulowitzki said. “And there were other pitches that were questionable. I’m walking out to the field, and he’s looking at me. And I told him that wasn’t a strike. And it was a quick trigger. Obviously he was either holding on to something or something was going on. But I didn’t think what I did was going to eject me from the game.
Tulowitzki wasn’t the only player who had complaints about Hirschbeck’s zone last night—Jays catcher Russell Martin had some things to say to him during one at-bat, and even got an earful from Hirschbeck shortly after Tulo was run—so maybe the ejection was more about a bunch of little things adding up.
Still, nobody wants to see a key player ejected from a playoff game without doing something really deserving, especially when it’s a star shortstop who had the biggest hit of the night. Players always do more chirping at umpires during the playoffs, when the intensity of the game is 10 times what it is during the regular season and every single strike counts that much more, so if there’s ever a time of year for guys like Hirschbeck to have a bit thicker skin than usual, it’s now.