10/01/09 8:00 PM EST
Tigers-Twins finale turns heated late
Tempers flare in ninth inning after plunkings
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
"Our pitcher lost his cool out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
With that, what was hoped to be a division-clinching celebration for the Tigers ended up a longer Thursday afternoon for both them and the Twins, capping an already emotional series in an 8-3 Minnesota win.
The inside pitches began long before Mijares took the mound. Nate Robertson's third-inning pitch off Denard Span's right side was the first. Minnesota starter Scott Baker hit Marcus Thames with a fourth-inning pitch and, after Thames slid hard into second base on Orlando Cabrera to break up a double play, threw a breaking ball high and inside on Thames his next time up in the fifth, drawing a stare out to the mound from Thames.
It's a rare look from a player who almost never flashes his temper.
"Nah, that's my buddy," Thames said jokingly afterward. "That's a happy look."
That seemed to be the end of it until the bottom of the eighth, when the Tigers started to rally against Twins reliever Matt Guerrier. Mijares entered to face Adam Everett, a teammate in Minnesota last year, and threw a pitch that veered just behind his shoulder blades.
Home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez immediately warned Mijares and the Tigers dugout, prompting Leyland to come out to argue the timing. Once Hernandez ejected him, Leyland's third ejection of the season, Leyland had his say with him as well as first-base umpire and crew chief Randy Marsh.
An inning earlier, Hernandez made a controversial call, ruling that Ramon Santiago took off too early from first base while tagging up on right fielder Span's catch in foul territory. Replays showed Santiago timed the play correctly.
"I think when you have to call it with the naked eye, it's a lot more difficult than it is when you go down and watch a replay," said Leyland, rarely one to comment on calls. "That's in fairness to any umpire. Obviously, after watching it, it was a legitimate tag."
Leyland declined comment on the ejection.
Once the Tigers took the field for the ninth inning, reliever Jeremy Bonderman threw a first-pitch fastball inside that hit the inside of Delmon Young's right knee, dropping Young to the ground in pain. Hernandez immediately ejected Bonderman, then did the same with catcher Gerald Laird once he went face-to-face with Hernandez and yelled.
"I just said something to Angel," Laird said. "That's basically it. Other than that, it's nothing."
Young got back up and started pointing and shouting to his own dugout as the benches emptied. No punches were thrown, and players essentially ended up staring at each other while Hernandez and the rest of the crew tried to keep the peace.
Asked later, Young confirmed he was pointing at Mijares.
"He's got to understand to learn how to play the game," Young said. "This is not the Minor Leagues up here."
Young knows several Tigers players from his older brother Dmitri, who played in Detroit from 2002-2006. He had no issue with Bonderman or anyone else.
"They are playing the game the way it's supposed to be played," Young said. "That's the same way we play it. We didn't need any of this to happen -- two teams going down to the wire in a pennant race, to have players injured or suspended over nothing."
Neither team, obviously, is hoping that happens, nor did they want tensions to linger. To that end, Gardenhire explained his side to Leyland.
"We told them we screwed up," Gardenhire said. "They did what they had to do, and it's over with. They did the right thing with what they had to do, and we screwed up. Guy just lost his composure.
"I have no clue why [Mijares] let the ball fly like that. It's all been taken care of."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.