The Blue Jays suffered a deflating 6-5 loss Tuesday night against the Yankees in the Bronx, but it was a series of umpire decisions earlier in the game that left Toronto players and coaches scratching their heads.
Blue Jays reliever Yimi Garcia, manager Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker all were ejected as part of a bizarre sequence during the sixth and seventh innings.
Two pitches after allowing a tying three-run home run to Giancarlo Stanton, Garcia hit Josh Donaldson in the upper left arm with a 94 mph fastball, prompting an angry response from the Yankees dugout. After a lengthy conference by the umpires, Garcia was ejected without a warning.
"There's no reason why anybody would try to hit anybody in a 3-3 game," Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette said.
Garcia reacted furiously to his ejection and needed to be restrained by Montoyo and Toronto's coaching staff, who rushed onto the field seeking an explanation. Walker also was ejected during the altercation.
Crew chief Alfonso Marquez told a pool reporter that umpires "felt ejection was the way to go" because they deemed Garcia's actions intentional, based in part on an earlier verbal exchange between Donaldson and Blue Jays catcher Tyler Heineman.
"Given all the situations up to that specific moment, we just deemed it intentional," Marquez said in the pool report. "And when that happens, we have to eject or go warnings, but we felt ejection was the way to go."
"I'm going to tell you exactly what they told me. The reason they thought that Yimi Garcia threw at Donaldson was because Heineman and Donaldson were yelling at each other in the fifth inning or something," Montoyo said. "They decided that they thought we threw at Donaldson in a tie game after the home run on the second pitch."
Garcia still was confused over the ejection a day later, telling reporters that he wasn't trying to hit Donaldson given the situation of the game at the time.
Garcia also said he struggled with the slickness of the baseball during Tuesday night's game, echoing concerns voiced by other pitchers over the consistency of the baseballs being used this season.
"Last night was one of the worst nights of my playing career regarding the baseballs," Gimi told reporters through a translator, according to Sportsnet. "It's embarrassing. The balls that we're using right now -- for me -- are really bad. They're very slippery."
Donaldson said he did not think Garcia hit him intentionally but noted that "it didn't look good on television, that's for sure." The Yankees third baseman, who played parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays, acknowledged that he exchanged words with Heineman earlier in the game but said he had no previous history with the Toronto catcher.
"I didn't even know the guy," Donaldson told reporters. "I didn't even know that was his name -- never heard of him."
The Blue Jays were further outraged in the top of the seventh, when Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga brushed back Bichette with a high 97 mph fastball. Multiple Blue Jays players and coaches shouted at plate umpire Lance Barrett, who ultimately ejected Montoyo.
Bichette said the series of events and umpiring decisions was confusing, saying "none of it" made sense to him.
"There was just as much reason for us to hit [Donaldson] as there would have been for them to hit me, which is none," he said. "I mean, the umpires are doing their best. They did what they thought was right, but it was surprising."
Toronto regained the lead but eventually lost on Aaron Judge's three-run walk-off homer off star closer Jordan Romano, marking its fifth loss in eight meetings this season with the division rival Yankees. The teams will square off again Wednesday afternoon in the finale of their two-game series at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm proud of my team for coming back after all of that s---," Montoyo said. "Believe me, we could have said, 'Oh, the umpires are against us,' and all of that stuff. No, we battled back and we had the best closer in baseball there in the ninth inning.
"It's actually the other way around. I'm proud of my team for coming back in a game like this."