Rays not sure why Yankees fans also were throwing at them

An incident that caused Friday’s game to be stopped briefly was slightly concerning and somewhat perplexing.
Fans watch during the fourth inning of Friday's game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Fans watch during the fourth inning of Friday's game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. [ FRANK FRANKLIN II | AP ]
Published April 17, 2021|Updated April 17, 2021

NEW YORK — The Rays don’t know what led more than a dozen Yankees fans to start throwing baseballs on the field during the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night, but were glad they didn’t have good arms or aim.

“I had no idea what was going on. I (only) played one other game in Yankee Stadium before when I was with Kansas City,” Rays outfielder Brett Phillips said. “I didn’t know if that was like a ritual or something, when you’re losing by six runs you throw baseballs at the opposing team. I didn’t know if that’s what they do around here.”

Maybe they were mocking the Rays for complaining about Yankees’ pitchers throwing at them. Or maybe they were just frustrated by how poorly their Yankees were playing, losing 8-2 to drop to 5-8.

“We were kind of wondering, ‘What the heck was going on,’ ” said Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, calling the scene a “fiasco,” which led to a brief stoppage in play. “I’ve never seen anything like it. … They’re coming from all different angles so you just didn’t know where they’re coming from.”

Manager Kevin Cash said he really wasn’t that worried players might get hit: “I didn’t see that many good arms, so I wasn’t overly concerned.”

Phillips said he had a plan just in case. “I was out there like a character from (the movie) Dodgeball — dodge dip, dive duck and dodge,” he said. “It was interesting. Never been a part of that culture before.”

Phillips may have innocently had a role, tossing a ball to a Yankees fan before the outburst.

“Usually when you throw a ball to a fan they’re pretty appreciative, but I guess not here,” he said. “I learned my lesson — don’t throw the Yankees fans baseballs.”

Manager Aaron Boone and several Yankees players acknowledged that for whatever the reason, it was a bad look for the crowd of 10,202.

“You hate to see it, is what I would say to that,” Boone said after the game. “Unfortunately, a handful of people end up doing it and it looks bad for everyone.”

Yarbrough sticking to plan

Yarbrough goes into his Sunday outing against the Yankees certain he has pitched better than his 0-2, 6.48 record indicates and confident he can show it.

In short, Yarbrough thinks he is throwing the ball well, mostly how and where he wants to, and that the swings and soft contact by the hitters are what he expects.

The difference from his solid first outing to his rough last two, he said, is nothing more than bad luck, as hits are dropping in and runs are scoring.

“The stuff has felt like it was where it needed to be, like movement-wise and placement wise. It’s just, things weren’t going my way,” Yarbrough said.

“A lot of balls that weren’t particularly hit really hard and they were finding holes. Especially as a pitcher, once the ball leaves your hand, everything is out of your control. So you try not to beat yourself up too much about that.

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“But I’d be lying to you saying if it wasn’t a little frustrating how the last two ones have gone. But at the same time, I know I have a lot of season left.”

Kiermaier returns

Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was activated for Saturday’s game, having been sidelined since April 6 with a strained left quad. Kiermaier had been feeling better and went through simulated game-type workouts Thursday and again Saturday morning, leading to the decision to restore him to active duty. Reliever Chris Mazza, who had an 11.74 ERA in four games, was sent down to the alternate site.

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