Rocco Baldelli animated as plate-blocking rule leads to Twins loss
On a controversial call, the Blue Jays took a 3-2 lead, which would end up sticking, as the Twins fell in the series finale at Target Field.
MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Beckham caught the ball in left field, took a couple steps and fired. With Whit Merrifield, hurdling towards home, catcher Gary Sanchez got into position and Beckham’s throw sailed straight into his glove.
In the nick of time, Sanchez got his glove down, slapping a tag on Merrifield’s thigh. The Target Field crowd erupted as the Twins trotted off the field. Merrifield sat on the ground by the plate, trying to plead his case.
After a lengthy review, the call on the field was overturned, the umpire’s explanation drowned out by a chorus of boos. Sanchez, a supervisor in New York ruled, was in violation of the Home Plate Collision Rule, and upon review, Merrifield was called safe.
That run was the difference in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto, a well-played contest between two playoff hopefuls coming down to a controversial call in the series finale at Target Field. The call prompted an animated Rocco Baldelli to emerge from the Twins’ dugout, tossing his hat in anger and eventually kicking dirt over home plate in disgust.
“That was probably one of the most chicken(expletive) things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field done to a team,” the Twins manager said. “ … Over and over and over again, that play has virtually never been called, and for someone to step in, in that situation and ultimately make a decision that that was blocking the plate, that’s beyond embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there, on both sides of the field, working their (expletive) off, for the entire game.”
Baldelli and the Twins did not receive an explanation from the umpiring crew, but the supervisor in New York, in part, deemed that Sanchez did not have to be in the position that he was in, and thus, he impeded the runner.
Caleb Thielbar, who on the mound at the time, said it was not clear that it was the right call and called the fact that it was overturned “unbelievable,” saying it cost the Twins the game.
“It’s some nameless, faceless person in New York who made the call, and they will never be held accountable for it,” Thielbar said.
Asked by a pool reporter after the game what specific rule Sanchez violated, crew chief Alan Porter did not get into specifics.
“The ruling is that Gary violated the Home Plate Collision Rule and that the runner was safe,” Porter said.
Sanchez, who is in his eighth season in the majors, said he has never been involved in a play at the plate like that that had been reviewed and overturned. He was among those in the Twins dugout surprised to see the call overturned, noting that he left Merrifield an open lane to slide on the side and Merrifield instead opted to slide into him.
“I think they probably made a mistake on that call,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary other than what I always do. I didn’t do anything different. I think it was a clean play.”
The call changed the trajectory of a game that the Twins had tied up in the ninth inning with a clutch single from Luis Arraez, his third hit of the day.
And it sends them off on their way to Los Angeles on a bitter note. When they face the Dodgers on Tuesday, it seems as if there’s a good chance that Baldelli, who will likely be hearing from the league, will not be in the dugout.
“It’s one of the worst moments I think we’ve seen of umpiring in any game I’ve ever been a part of in baseball and I think it was pathetic what just played out,” Baldelli said. “ … It’s (expletive) awful. Awful. Awful. In every possible way.”
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