The Seattle catcher, realizing that the throw from the outfield had no way of getting to him in time to have a play on Phelps, stepped in front of home plate, leaving the dish exposed. He was upended anyway.
"[Phelps] kind of went out of his way [to take out Johjima] and I don't know why," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think it surprised everybody."
And so, when Phelps came to bat in the next inning with a runner on second base and one out, Johjima said he called for "a fastball down the middle" and the ball smacked Phelps in the back.
"Maybe it slipped," Johjima said.
And maybe it didn't slip.
"I don't know that he meant to do that," said Hargrove of his pitcher, "but if he did, good for him. And if he didn't, good for him, too."
Washburn said that with first base open, he was just trying to pitch Phelps inside.
Both benches were warned by plate umpire Mike Everitt, but it took no time at all for the next incident to occur. With one out and nobody on base in the top of the seventh inning, Yankees reliever Scott Proctor threw a fastball behind Yuniesky Betancourt.
The Mariners shortstop took a step or two towards the mound, pointing his bat at the pitcher. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied, but order was restored quickly. Proctor and Yankees manager Joe Torre were ejected.
Betancourt said he realized when he went to bat that he might be a target, but he never expected a pitch to be thrown near his head. He said that a pitcher who wants to retaliate should throw the ball lower.
Second baseman Willie Bloomquist agreed.
"When a guy takes out your catcher that way, you drill them, and I don't have a problem with them drilling us back," Bloomquist said. "That's the way baseball is played. But don't go at a guy's head. Throwing a ball 95 miles an hour at someone's head is taking it to a new level. Yuni had every right to be upset."
The Yankees scored once in the inning to pad a 2-0 lead and tacked on two more runs in the seventh off right-handed reliever Chris Reitsma.
Washburn battled on even terms with Yankees right-hander Darrell Rasner through four innings.
But Phelps then blooped a single into center field. Washburn retired the next two batters, but then walked Johnny Damon on a full-count pitch. Derek Jeter delivered a single into center field and Ichiro Suzuki's throw was not nearly in time to get Phelps.
"I guess [Phelps] was excited about getting a hit," Johjima quipped sarcastically when asked his opinion of Phelps' slide at home plate.
The slide ticked off Washburn, but not quite as much as the walk he issued to Damon.
"That walk really hurt," he said. "Johnny is a good hitter, but I have to get him in that situation. I have done pretty well against him in the past, but you can't get him out if you don't throw strikes.
"I put him on right there and when you bring up one of the most clutch hitters in the game [Jeter], it's not a good situation."
Washburn was saddled with his third loss of the season.
"For the most part, I threw well, but it wasn't good enough," Washburn said.
Meanwhile, out in left field, Ibanez had a nightmarish afternoon. He lost the ball that Hideki Matsui hit into the air with one out in the seventh inning, leading to a run, and lost another one in the eighth inning, which set up the Yankees' final two runs.
"In defense of Ibanez, you can't catch what you can't see," Hargrove said.
"That's the worst sun I have seen in a long time," Ibanez said. "The sun usually is about the size of a baseball when you look up at it through your [sunglasses]. Today, the sun was the size of a basketball."
Ibanez said he felt he should have caught Matsui's fly ball, which initially was ruled as an error but was later changed to a double.
"The second one, I never really saw at all," Ibanez said.
"A lot of things went against us today," Bloomquist said. "There were the two balls to left field and the one that went off the end of my glove [in the sixth inning]. If one of those things goes our way, it changes the whole inning, and maybe the game. The breaks went for them."