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08/08/09 12:56 AM ET
Calls don't go Twins' way in defeat
Tigers prove to be too much despite effort to chip away
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
DETROIT -- When two teams combine for 18 runs in a contest, it seems hard to believe that a tag play in the first inning could be the most crucial play of the game. But considering there were a few questionable calls in the Twins' 10-8 loss to the Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park, the turning point seemed to be traced to that first inning. The Tigers had yet to score their first run of the contest when it happened. After tallying back-to-back hits to start the inning and put runners on first and third, Clete Thomas hit a grounder to first. As Curtis Granderson broke toward home from third, Justin Morneau threw home to catch Granderson in a rundown. Twins catcher Joe Mauer threw to third baseman Brendan Harris, who dived to tag Granderson. Believing he had made the out, Harris got up and looked to second base to see if he could get the runner there. But third-base umpire Brian Knight ruled that Harris had never tagged Granderson, who crossed home plate to score Detroit's first run. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue, to no avail. Replays showed that Granderson stutter-stepped when Harris tagged him on the heel of his shoe. And after the contest, Granderson admitted that he got tagged on the play. "He got the bottom of my cleat," Granderson said. "I didn't hear anything, so I kept going. If they call me out, they call me out." Knight made a safe motion, but did not verbally make a call. Something that Harris raised to the umpire after he saw Granderson's teammates high-fiving him when he crossed home plate. "I got up and said,' I didn't even look to home. Don't you think I'd flinch or try to get him at home if I missed him?'" Harris said while retelling their conversation. "[Knight] said,' Oh you were on the ground.' I said, 'Look I'm not that good an actor. I'd give this stuff up and move to Hollywood if I could control myself like that.' " Harris said the play 'definitely set the tone' of the contest. It was the first of four calls that the Twins felt went against them in a loss that dropped them 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers. The other three came on one play in the fifth inning. With runners on first and third with two outs in the inning, Alex Avila hit a ball down the first-base line that glanced off Morneau's glove. On what Morneau initially believed was a foul ball based on where he landed -- although he said afterward that he wasn't sure -- first-base umpire Dana DeMuth ruled it to be fair. The ball then bounced into foul territory near the stands. "The guy reached out, got a little piece of it," second baseman Nick Punto said. "It was probably tough to see, but he definitely got a little piece of the ball." Things weren't over on the play, either. While one run scored on Avila's double, the throw back into play still appeared to beat Carlos Guillen to the plate and replays appeared to show that Mauer got the tag down. But once again, the call went against the Twins as Guillen was ruled safe and the Tigers lead extended to 9-4. Gardenhire wasn't around to see that play in person, as he was ejected by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendlestedt in the bottom of the second inning. It came after some of the Twins players were yelling from the dugout about balk calls on Galarraga's "quick-pitch" move. The skipper said Wendlestedt warned that he was going to throw him out if the chirping continued, and when Gardenhire headed out to the field to talk, that's when he got tossed. "Tonight was ridiculous, really," Gardenhire said. "A lot of calls [were] no good. [Wendlestedt] had a bad night. He probably didn't think so because he's god as umpires go. But not good, really not good by him." Speaking to a pool reporter after the game, Wendelstedt disagreed with Gardenhire and the Twins' sentiments that some of the calls made were wrong. "We have reviewed everything that is possible, best-case scenario -- the only questionable call of whole night that he might have is whether the fan might have touched the foul ball down the line, which we couldn't see on the tape. Everything else we were 100 percent," Wendelstedt said. "And then when I get my ball-and-strike disk, I'll bet I'm 97-99 percent and we'll look at that tomorrow." Whatever the calls, they still didn't erase the fact that rookie Anthony Swarzak delivered his worst outing of the season, lasting just an inning-plus and allowing seven runs on eight hits. Six of those came in the first, all following the rundown play. But Swarzak put the blame on himself as well. "That's baseball -- you are going to get your tough breaks," Swarazak said. "You have to know to step off, take a deep breath and make quality pitches. I didn't do that today." Some missed defensive plays could also be blamed as well. Before Avila's double in the sixth, the Twins had a chance to turn a double play. But shortstop Orlando Cabrera missed a high throw from Morneau. Cabrera had to leave his feet on the play, and Morneau was charged with the error. But it appeared that it was a catch that Cabrera could have made. "If we play better defense and if I make a better throw, then we don't even get into that situation and you don't even have to worry about that kind of stuff," Morneau said. "So it's part of the game. It was avoidable if we did what we needed to do before that." The Twins didn't give up though, scoring two runs in the top of the ninth inning as they put the go-ahead run at the plate. And the effort to stay in the contest was recognized by Gardenhire. "A few plays didn't go our way. A few calls didn't go our way, and yet our guys continued to battle," Gardenhire said. "We gave it everything we had, yet a loss is a loss. It doesn't matter, you can't get them back."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.