Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Leyland won't defend ball kiss

OAKLAND, Calif. — Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.

Just as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Oakland's Coco Crisp did on the field for Monday's workout day ahead of Game 3 in the AL Division Series. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL Championship Series.

Leyland insisted reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes' ninth-inning comebacker Sunday and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.

"Everybody always says I'm from the old school, so I'd have probably hugged it first," Leyland joked. "I don't think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A's, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A's."

As upstart Oakland returned home, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.

Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was "within the emotion of the game."

"I respect Cespedes and I didn't do it out of disrespect," the pitcher said. "I was just excited to get the out."

Still, that didn't mean the Tigers weren't surprised by it.

"I said, 'Did I see what I just saw?' " catcher Gerald Laird said.

Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: "That's his problem. It doesn't bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn."

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