Fair or foul? Call hurts Twins
Mauer's 'foul' ball in 11th was clear double on TV replays
NEW YORK -- It's called human error. On the national stage, though, it's hard to brush aside.
The play in question, with umpire Phil Cuzzi working the left-field line during the top of the 11th of the Yankees' 4-3 win over the Twins in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday, involved Joe Mauer's leadoff at-bat against reliever Damaso Marte.
Mauer lined a 1-1 pitch toward the corner, where Yankees left fielder Melky Cabrera gave chase. The opposite-field drive eluded Cabrera's outstretched glove and bounced away, with Mauer making his way toward second base. Cuzzi ruled the ball foul, sending Mauer back to the plate.
"I wasn't the only one that blew one tonight," said Minnesota closer Joe Nathan, who gave away a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth on Alex Rodriguez's two-run home run. "I hope everyone is going to go ask the umpire about that call, too."
The players and coaches in Minnesota's dugout opposite the third-base line couldn't get a clear look at the landing point of the baseball. But Nathan and a few other players went into the clubhouse to check the TV coverage.
Even though there is instant replay in Major League Baseball, the play is non-reviewable, because umpires can only utilize video replay to review a contested home run on three grounds: fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark and fan interference.
Replays showed the ball clearly landing fair, by eight or nine inches, and apparently ticking off Cabrera's glove as it dropped.
Mauer eventually singled up the middle, and Jason Kubel followed with a single to right, which probably would have scored Mauer if the call was ruled fair. If Kubel's hit didn't score Mauer, then Michael Cuddyer's ensuing single should have brought home the go-ahead run.
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The missed call took on even more importance when the Yankees escaped a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam without a Twins baserunner scoring in the 11th, and Mark Teixeira opened the bottom of the frame with a walk-off home run.
"Obviously, we score a run there," Nathan said. "A double puts us in a great situation where we can do a lot of things. We definitely would have scored one run. We didn't that inning, and it ended up costing us.
"It was one of those situations where it was tough, because you don't know how he missed it. You see it on the replays that he's about 10 feet from the call and it was not on the line. It was a good eight inches inside the line, so I don't know how he missed it."
"You can't see from the dugout," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "But I think we all know the ball was fair by a long ways."
After reviewing the play after the game, like umpires do with any close play, crew chief Tim Tschida addressed the media. Tschida admitted that "an incorrect decision was rendered."
"Nothing is perfect in this game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And does the situation change? They have first and third and we're still going to play the infield in. Cuddyer gets a hit, it may change the game. But there's always that element of human error in the game, and we got a little break."
As for consequences faced by Cuzzi over the obvious mistake, Tschida said there would be none, other than feeling horrible when a mistake such as this one happens.
"There's a guy sitting over there in the umpires' dressing room right now that feels horrible," Tschida said. "I've been there. Some of you have been through that with me at a time or two when you render a decision, and it could have a negative impact on the outcome of the game.
"Nobody feels it worse than the umpire. And whether there's anything coming further from that, I don't think it would serve the purpose."
Reaction to the missed call did not totally take on a negative tone.
"Umpires are going to make mistakes," Minnesota second baseman Nick Punto said. "I'm fine with that. It happens. I'm sure we've got plenty of breaks throughout the year. It's one of those things where I never like to blame the umpire. It's tough to handle, but we had a lot of opportunities. We just didn't come through."
"They make mistakes, too," he said. "I guess he made a mistake there and just has to live with it. You try not to focus on that one play. We had our chances to win, and we just couldn't get it done."
Nathan was philosophical about it.
"There's nothing you can really do about it," Nathan said. "It's a situation where unfortunately there's no red flag to throw out there to get an instant replay on it. You have to wear it, and hopefully, it gets better. Hopefully that umpire realized he's got to do something to get better."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.