No sweep least of manager's concerns
After dropping finale, Gardenhire rants on Harris situation
MILWAUKEE -- Among American League teams, the Twins play the fastest games.Perhaps that's why Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire seemed to be particularly irked by the events that unfolded in the latter part of Sunday afternoon's game against Milwaukee. Following his team's 4-2 loss to the Brewers in the series finale at Miller Park, Gardenhire wasn't focused on the Twins' inability to capture a sweep. Rather, he seemed plenty upset by the fact that one of his hitters could have been hit when a pitch was thrown without the player looking.
Having been told that it occurred as a result of trying to "speed up the game," Gardenhire let his feelings about the issue be known during a postgame rant."My guy is looking down, not even looking at the pitcher, and the ball goes flying by him, and you tell me that's right?" Gardenhire said. "That's embarrassing. I understand the umpires are forced to try and speed the game up. The league is telling them this. But what is the league going to do when a guy gets hit in the head when he's not looking? What are they going to do?" The play occurred with the Twins trailing, 3-2, at the start of the eighth inning. Brendan Harris came to the plate as the first batter in the frame. Brewers relief pitcher Guillermo Mota threw two quick pitches for strikes to Harris -- one of which was called, the other fouled off. Harris seemed to be a bit flustered by what he thought was Mota quick pitching him, and he asked home-plate umpire Brian Runge for time. Having not heard from Runge, Harris stepped back in the batter's box when he saw the umpire stand up a little bit, assuming that he was granted time. But with his head down while adjusting his batting helmet, Harris didn't even see the pitch that Mota threw until it had popped into catcher Jason Kendall's glove. A pitch that rung Harris up on a called third strike. "I said to him, 'Why couldn't you give me time?'" Harris said of his discussion with Runge after the play. "He said, 'I can't give you time all day.' I said, 'Brian, I've seen five pitches today, and I've swung at three of them.'" After a few moments of Harris arguing with Runge, Gardenhire raced out to the plate to have a discussion himself. It was a delayed response due to what the manager called "shock." "I honestly couldn't believe what I saw," said Gardenhire, who was ejected during his heated exchange with Runge. "If that ball would have been inside, with my guy looking straight down at the ground and got hit in the head, what would they have done?" the upset skipper said. "What I was told out there was, 'Call the league.' That's a great statement. ... What if my guy is down and got hit in the head. You let the pitcher throw the ball because you didn't want to give him timeout. I don't get it. I don't get it at all. Where is the game going?" Harris said it wasn't the first time in this series when the umpires had indicated their focus on speeding up the game. On Saturday night, Harris asked for time to wipe some sweat out of his eye. Greg Gibson, the home-plate umpire at the time, told him that he could only have it if there was really something in his eye. "It was in the back of my mind that they are really trying to speed the game up," Harris said. "But in that situation, we're in the eighth in a 3-2 game after an hour and 50 minutes, and I'm not thinking they would try to speed us up like that." Frustration over the pitch being thrown was one thing, but Gardenhire and the Twins also seemed disappointed by their chances earlier in the game to take leads. Twins starter Scott Baker threw his second straight quality start, giving up just three runs over six innings against the Brewers. After his typical slow first inning in which he gave up one run, Baker settled down to throw four scoreless frames. The righty said he was starting to feel better as his outing progressed, especially in the third when he became the first Twins pitcher to strike out four batters in an inning. But right after the Twins had taken their first lead of the game on Alexi Casilla's sacrifice fly to left field off Brewers starter Seth McClung, Baker (2-2) gave it right back. A four-pitch walk to Russell Branyan led off the bottom of the sixth, and Mike Cameron followed with a two-run blast to center field for a 3-2 lead. The Twins were unable to make any sort of run following that inning, and the loss was sealed when reliever Boof Bonser gave up one more run in the bottom of the eighth. "We continued to battle; we just didn't have enough offense today to score enough runs, and that's disappointing," Gardenhire said. "We had a chance to finish off a series here and just didn't get there." Not being able to capture a three-game sweep left all the Twins feeling a little disappointed as they headed out of Miller Park. But not as much as the fact that the majority of the discussion afterward centered around a play that occurred in an attempt to "speed up the game." "You see the study that was released that all the efforts to speed the game up has sped it up two minutes," Harris said. "So are we really making that much of a difference? I just think that it's a shame that we're talking about something like this after a big league game."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.