The Cleveland Indians’ run for an American League record 21 consecutive victories took a strange turn Wednesday when Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus were ejected – and then a subsequent pitch struck home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott in the shoulder.
After the Indians' 5-3 victory, Ausmus and the Tigers vehemently denied insinuations - including from the Indians' TV broadcast - that pitcher Buck Farmer and reserve catcher John Hicks conspired to intentionally hit Wolcott.
“To imply that was intentional is, first of all, a lie,” Ausmus, who saw the sequence on a clubhouse TV after his ejection, told the Detroit Free Press. “If any player intentionally tried to hurt an umpire on this team, we’d deal with it severely.
“For anyone to imply it was intentional is completely wrong. They are out of line in saying that, quite frankly.”
The Indians led 4-1 at Progressive Field when Farmer walked Jay Bruce to load the bases in the bottom of the third inning.
The Tigers were already upset over a called third strike on Jeimer Candelario in the top of the inning. After the walk to Bruce, McCann turned and directly confronted Wolcott. Ausmus had come out to talk to Farmer when McCann got tossed; shortly after Ausmus engaged Wolcott, the umpire ejected him, too.
Hicks, a utilityman who serves as a backup catcher, replaced McCann behind the plate. With Yandy Diaz batting, Farmer uncorked a 91-mph fastball that sailed a bit inside, was not caught by Hicks and struck Wolcott, 31, in the shoulder.
Hicks did not turn to check on Wolcott, as is often custom with catchers and umps, and instead jogged immediately to confer with Farmer, as if to indicate they were confused about signs.
“Obviously, it looked bad right after Brad and (McCann) got tossed,” Hicks said. “But it’s bases loaded and we’re trying to win a baseball game. Any thought of us trying to do that on purpose is just ridiculous.”
During the delay due to the ejections, the Tigers bench was also bickering with first base umpire Brian O’Nora, and first baseman Miguel Cabrera engaged in a back-and-forth with a group of fans.