Monday, the Minnesota Twins were playing in Oakland. I figured I'd see the first four or five innings and call it a night.
As the game slugged through the first two-plus innings, the Twins managed to take a 12-2 lead. I was tired, the Twins aren't my favorite team (I like them a good deal, but I'm a Brewer fan), and it was 12-2. That was it for me.
Oakland rallied from that 12-2 deficit, capping the comeback with a seven-run outburst in the seventh inning to take an improbable 14-13 lead.
How the Twins got there was a mystery to me until I read the work of LaVelle Neal Tuesday morning. Since he was forced to stay up to watch the Twins pitching staff get debacled, I'll let him tell you the story of the seventh inning.
The first two batters reached against reliever Brian Duensing. Then Mark Ellis popped up a pitch that (Twins first baseman Justin) Morneau overran. It fell in for no play.
“I just misjudged it,” Morneau said. “I thought it was going to be on the warning track and it was 10 feet behind me.”
Ellis, of course, singles to load the bases. One out later, Bobby Keppel replaced Duensing. Orlando Cabrera sent a blooper down the right field line that (Michael) Cuddyer dived for - and missed. Two runs scored.
Keppel re-loaded the bases with a walk to Scott Hairiston - then gave up a grand slam to (Matt) Holliday to tie the game.
Jack Cust added a booming home run later in the seventh to make it 14-13. Then came the wild ninth inning, when a Michael Wuertz wild pitch send Cuddyer from second base with two out. When catcher Kurt Suzuki couldn't find the ball, and it rolled away, Cuddyer kept running and tried to score.
As you can see in the photo above, it looked like Cuddyer was safe, but he was called out. After the game, manager Ron Gardenhire cooled off before talking to LaVelle.
“Definitely, Cuddy was safe,” Gardenhire said. “There’s no doubt about that. A little bit of a bad call there…but we also shot ourselves in the foot.”
So how did the umpire blow it?
Well, there's only so far I'll go to defend incompetence like that, but there's a chance that Wuertz' right leg blocked the view of the umpire. As Wuertz tried to get in position to slap the tag on Cuddyer, he planted his right leg at an angle. The umpire -- positioned properly, mind you -- may not have been able to see Cuddyer's right leg scrape home plate as he slid in. To the umpire, it looked like the throw beat Cuddyer, and if he didn't see Cuddyer actually touch the dish, he has to call the runner out.
That said, it's a stretch, and I understand why the Twins and their legions of fans (judging by Facebook, a ton of you stayed up to watch, which I salute you for, because I don't do that when the Brewers play out west) are upset. Cuddyer was safe, undoubtedly, so why was he called out?
Moreover, how long is baseball's instant replay system only going to be used for home runs?
In the end, though, Gardenhire said it best. They shot themselves in the foot enough to lose the kind of ballgame they may never see again.