NEW YORK — David Ortiz watched Andrew Miller‘s 3-1, bases-loaded slider hook past him as crossed-up catcher Brian McCann reached down to grab it, heard plate umpire Ron Kulpa call strike and stuck out both arms in anger.
“No!” Big Papi screamed a half-dozen times, convinced he had just walked to force in the tying run against the Yankees with one out in the ninth inning. Manager John Farrell bolted out of the dugout to block Ortiz and quickly was ejected, then waved his right arm as if he were tossing the umpire.
Ortiz returned to the batter’s box, took another slider for strike three, walked to the dugout, threw down his bat and helmet, then barked some more. When he, too, was ejected, Ortiz ran back onto the field, screaming at Kulpa and pointing with his arms.
Farrell and third base coach Brian Butterfield had to restrain the slugger, and Farrell escorted him back to the dugout.
Hanley Ramirez then swung over a 1-2 slider, ending a wild Friday night in the Bronx that culminated in a 3-2 New York victory, easily the Yankees’ biggest win of their thus-far sorry season.
“You’d need a hockey stick for the 3-2 pitch,” a disgusted Farrell said.
Two innings later, tempers flared as they game turned tense and testy.
“My heart’s still racing. I think it’s something that’s going to take a little while to come down from,” Miller said a half-hour after the final out
Last-place New York, off to its worst start in a quarter-century, put pitcher CC Sabathia on the disabled list before the game because of a groin strain, then lost Jacoby Ellsbury to a hip muscle strain in the first inning, an injury manager Joe Girardi said is likely to sideline the center fielder for a couple days. Earlier in the week, Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez went on the DL because of a hamstring injury.
Kulpa called third strikes on seven batters, six of them Red Sox.
“It’s just another game, another big game between the Yankees and Red Sox. Emotions are high,” Kulpa said. “The 3-1 pitch, I had it coming through the zone. That’s why I called it a strike. McCann didn’t help me out. He took the ball down a little bit, but the pitch still came through the zone. And the 3-2 pitch, I had it in the zone right down the middle.”
Ortiz insisted Kulpa blew the calls, saying all the pitches were balls, even the one he swung at.
The 40-year-old, a nine-time All-Star, plans to retire after this season and is on a feel-good tour around the major leagues. There were no happy emotions for him after this one.
“The bad thing about it is that the whole world watches these games,” Ortiz said. “The umpire was having a hard time in the game. It’s a situation when the game is on the line, and (he’s) got to focus better.”
But Hicks gave the Yankees something to cheer about on the 50-degree, rainy night and provided Kirby Yates (1-0) with the second win of his big league career. Acquired from Minnesota during the offseason, Hicks was hitting .088 with no extra-base hits and two RBIs in 34 at-bats when he sent a hanging changeup over the Yankees bullpen and into the right-field bleachers.
“It definitely felt good, especially to finally help this team,” said Hicks, who moved to center when Ellsbury got hurt and misplayed a pair of fly balls as Boston loaded the bases in the sixth.
As he circled the bases, the Yankees used the strobe function of their new LED lights, which had previously been used only during soccer games.
“I knew it got a little dark, but that was about it,” Hicks said.
New York had lost seven of its previous eight games. At 10-17 the Yankees are off to their worst start since 1991.
To hold the lead, Girardi used Dellin Betances for a third straight day for the first time in the reliever’s big league career. After Travis Shaw‘s infield hit in the eighth, Girardi brought in Miller.
“We’ve been struggling,” Girardi said. “I thought it was important that we win this game tonight.”
BIG PAPI NUMBERS
Ortiz has hit 452nd of his 510 home runs for Boston, tied with Carl Yastrzemski for second among Red Sox behind Ted Williams (521), and has hit 50 homers against the Yankees.
David Price (4-0 despite a 6.14 ERA), who beat the Yankees last weekend while allowing six runs in seven innings, pitches for the Red Sox against Nathan Eovaldi (1-2) in a rematch of Sunday’s starters.