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Umpires award Yankees 3-run HR vs. A's despite apparent fan interference

The New York Yankees blew open their 11-3 win over the Oakland A's on Wednesday with a four-run first inning. It was aided by a three-run home run that probably shouldn't have counted.

With runners on first and third, center fielder Harrison Bader hit a 1-1 fastball from A's starter Kyle Muller deep toward the Yankee Stadium right-field bleachers. Right fielder JJ Bleday leaped to make a play but didn't come down with the ball. As Bader rounded second base, umpires signaled a home run to extend New York's lead to 4-0.

But the umps weren't so sure about this one. Neither was Bleday, who looked up into the stands after failing to secure the ball.

Umpires then reviewed the play for potential fan interference. Here's what they saw with a closer look:

Bleday timed his jump perfectly and reached his glove over the wall as the ball descended toward it. Two Yankees fans with gloves reached out to challenge him, and one of them came away with the ball, with his glove just above Bleday's.

There's no camera angle down the wall to show definitively how far the fan reached to corral the ball. But from the angles available, it's difficult to conclude that both fans didn't reach into the field of play.

Would Bleday have caught the ball without the fans in his way? It's impossible to say, but he gave himself an optimal chance to snag it.

JJ Bleday's effort to make a play was impeded by two fans in the stands. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
JJ Bleday's effort to make a play was impeded by two fans in the stands. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Per the rulebook, replay officials had three options:

1: Rule that a "spectator clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball by reaching onto the field of play" and call Bader out.

2: Rule that the spectator interfered with the play but didn't prevent a certain out, allowing umpires to place baserunners "where the umpire determines they would have been without the interference."

3: Rule that there was no fan interference and allow the home run to stand.

Replay officials chose option No. 3. The home run stood, and the Yankees extended their lead. They tacked on seven more runs in the fifth en route to an 11-3 victory.