Overturned appeal results in Baldelli ejection, Twins 3-2 loss to Blue Jays

Rocco Baldelli threw down his cap, kicked home plate and shouted at a pair of umpires. But his fury was directed at someone 1,200 miles away.

The normally unflappable Twins manager vented his anger on plate umpire Marty Foster and team manager Alan Porter after Foster’s judgment – that Gary Sanchez tagged Whit Merrifield to the plate, ending the 10th inning and keeping the tied game — was overturned in New York by replay referee Jordan Baker.

His verdict: that Sanchez violated the rule against blocking home plate, that he did not give Merrifield the required sliding path. Merrifield was deemed safe – scoring the eventual winning run in the Blue Jays’ 3-2 victory – Baldelli was ejected, and the Twins reluctantly and bitterly settled for a split in the rowdy four-game series.

“It’s more than embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there,” Baldelli fumed in a short, profanity-filled post-match interview. “That’s one of the worst moments I think we’ve seen from an umpire in any game I’ve ever been in in baseball. It was pathetic what just happened.”

Potentially critical too. The Twins’ two-game lead over AL Central against Cleveland was halved by the loss, with a road trip to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers hold baseball’s best record, next Tuesday.

“It’s a game that can have playoff implications at some point. And taking it away from us is tough,” reliever Caleb Thielbar said. “That was fair enough, what [Baldelli] did. He was right, as far as I’m concerned.”

When it came to the Blue Jays, however, Baker simply did justice.

“I know what the rule is. It’s just a matter of whether or not he was called, and I think they rightly called him correctly,” Merrifield said. “I thought it was going to be overturned. I thought it should be overturned. Obviously that’s an important point in the game and you don’t want it to come down to a ruling on the rules, but the rules are there for a reason.”

The outburst added an air of grievance to the Twins’ disappointment at losing a game that seemed to be heading for a euphoric end. They led 2-0 from the third inning, rallied with a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to even the score and delight their raucous crowd, then snuffed out the Blue Jays’ scoring chance in the 10th inning. – if only momentarily – with this dramatic game at the plate.

The overturned call, however, deflated the momentum, and the Twins went quietly to 10th, blocking Max Kepler at third base.

“I was angry. I took a warm-up pitch” when the game resumed after Baldelli’s tirade, said Thielbar, who was blamed for Merrifield’s run and loss. “[The umpires] were a bit confused about this. I was crazy.”

After Jose Miranda and Luis Arraez provided timely RBI singles in the eighth and ninth innings to even the score, Merrifield started the 10th at second base. He rode a flyout to the center, a play at third so close the Twins challenged, to no avail.

Cavan Biggio then roped a mid-deep fly ball to Tim Beckham, an infielder playing left field. Beckham’s pitch hit home plate just past Merrifield, who slid straight into Sanchez, and Foster called it. The Twins harassed Beckham as they walked off the field, and although Toronto manager John Schneider disputed the call, even some of the Blue Jays believed the call would stand.

“I didn’t think he would be knocked down, to be honest. It’s just one of those weird rules – it was a perfect pitch, and it’s like the guy has to move based on the pitch? ” said Toronto starter Kevin Gausman, who pitched six shutout innings. “It was basically a strike. If I’m Gary Sanchez, what else am I supposed to do? But huge for us.”

The rule, intended to eliminate hurtful collisions, states that a catcher cannot block the plate until he has the ball, unless the pitch takes him there. Baker ruled that Sanchez had moved into foul territory not because of the pitch, and in doing so, denied Merrifield a path to the plate.

Are you okay, Gary?

“I thought it was a clean game,” Sanchez said. “He didn’t use the outside lane, he got on top of me. If I drop my knee before I get the ball back, or before the runner gets to home plate, then I’m blocking him at home plate. It’s not not what I did. I grabbed the ball and then went down to tag it. It’s a clean game.”

“Horrible. Horrible. Horrible, in every possible way,” said Baldelli, who faces a fine or even suspension for his comments. “You’re looking for referees to keep things tidy on the pitch, and the guys in the replay booth clearly didn’t. I think that was pathetic.”

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