BRADENTON -- The jeers first showered upon Derek Gonzalez in the second inning.
It was the top of the frame and with two outs Michael O'Neill was trying to spark a rally. Jayson Aquino fell behind with consecutive balls and got the third pitch over the plate for a called strike. The Marauders starting pitcher likes to keep hitters off balance with tricky sliders and deceptive changeups, and the fourth pitch of the at-bat had the Yankees outfielder swinging way out in front.
His right-handed hack had the ball bounce first in fair territory, about half of the way to third base, before skirting wide of third base. Bradenton waited for the foul call that never came.
O'Neill raced into second base for a double and droning boos through McKechnie Field. "It was a foul ball," Aquino said in his broken English. "I don't know, man. Some umpires are crazy."
Yankees second baseman Angelo Gumbs knocked a go-ahead single up the middle for the final run in their 2-1 win against the Pirates' Class A Advanced affiliate Tuesday. The Marauders' outhit New York's Florida State League team 12-7, but a handful of controversial calls and 10 stranded runners ended Bradenton's three-game winning streak and evened the four-game series at 1-1.
Minor league umpires have the difficult task of handling with two officials what MLB umps do with four. In the majors, Gonzalez would've had a third base umpire to rely on for a second opinion during his questionable call in the second inning. Instead, in the FSL, it's something he has to handle himself.
That didn't matter to the 775 at McKechnie on Tuesday. Gonzalez's second-inning gaffe made him a ripe target for Marauders fans and players, even though manager Michael Ryan never left the dugout to dispute a call.
"It's hard for him," Ryan said. "He's blocked from the hitter, he's blocked from the catcher, so what are you gonna do?"
In the bottom of the third, Gonzalez received his most demonstrative pushback from a player or manager. JaCoby Jones had a 2-2 count to lead off the inning when Tampa starter Rookie Davis fired a pitch inside that nearly hit the Bradenton shortstop on the hands. Jones hopped out of the way and Gonzalez punched him out for one of Davis' seven strikeouts.
Jones lingered around home plate for a moment to plead
with Gonzalez before taking a slow walk back to the dugout. Davis (4-4), whose 76 strikeouts are second most in the FSL, worked around a two-out single to strike out the side.
The Marauders got at least one hit in each of the first eight innings Tuesday yet the only run they scored was on a home run by outfielder Barrett Barnes in the first inning.
"We swung the bat really well in my opinion, just one of them days where we didn't get it done with a guy on in scoring position," Ryan said. "I'm happy with the whole day, to be honest with you."
The vitriol toward Gonzalez settled during the later innings and most of the taunts were sarcastic -- close but clearly foul Bradenton line drives jolted the hecklers back to life -- until the bottom of the ninth.
The Marauders were down to their final three outs and letting Aquino's (3-7) seven innings of five-hit, two-run ball go to waste. Second baseman Chris Diaz, the No. 9 hitter, opened the frame against Yankees relief pitcher Alex Smith and fell behind 0-2.
Finally he made contact and sliced a line drive toward third base. Third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. lunged to his right and the ball snuck past. It took a hop and maybe some chalk popped in the air.
Only this time the foul call came. Diaz struck out and Bradenton went down in order against Smith, who notched his second save of the year.