Jeffrey Maier was nowhere to be found, and a potential Yankees run and Josh Donaldson’s hustle were missing, too.
In the bottom of the fifth inning of a tied Game 1 of the ALDS in The Bronx on Tuesday night, Donaldson smacked what he believed to be an opposite-field home run and what actually became an out on the base paths. Because the Yankees bounced back for a 4-1 victory over the Guardians to open the series, the play will be remembered more as an oddity than a critical mistake.
Facing Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill, Donaldson launched a shot to right field that bounced off the top of the wall, just missing the bare hands of several fans trying to make a catch. The ball caromed back into the field of play, and Cleveland right fielder Oscar Gonzalez caught it and threw it in to second base.
Donaldson, who was not running hard and had high-fived first-base coach Travis Chapman as he rounded the bag, was caught halfway between the bases. He tried to scramble back to first base but was tagged out.
Donaldson pointed to the right-field wall in hopes a review would overturn the call. But upon replay, the call was upheld, as the ball never made its way to the stands (and no fan could make the play that Maier did in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, in which the young fan deflected a deep fly by Derek Jeter , turning it into what was ruled as a home run).
The glare on Donaldson would have been a lot brighter had his teammates not bailed him out quickly. Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed by drilling a ball down the line that right fielder Gonzalez misplayed, enabling Kiner-Falefa to reach third. With one out, Jose Trevino’s sacrifice fly provided the go-ahead run, and the Yankees would only add on from there.
Apart from a lack of hustle, the veteran Donaldson came through in his first playoff game as a Yankee and 40th of his career. The no. 6 hitter went 2-for-2 with a walk and made a couple impressive plays at third base.
With the bases loaded and one out in the third inning, Gonzalez hit a grounder to Donaldson’s left, which he handled cleanly and came home with the throw for the force out. Gerrit Cole would get out of the inning unscathed.
An inning later, Cleveland’s Austin Hedges hit a hard grounder down the third-base line, and Donaldson slid behind the bag to field it, rose and made a strong throw to first to get Hedges.