One Twin got an apology from an umpire Sunday. Another Twin undoubtedly wants one.
The Twins haven’t had many beefs with umpires during their charge into first place, but their 8-6 loss to the Royals ended with Nelson Cruz gesturing angrily at first base umpire Jordan Baker and first base coach Tommy Watkins shouting at him.
The Twins were trying to stage a last-gasp rally in the ninth inning, with Max Kepler’s two-out double over Jorge Bonifacio’s head in right field driving in Jonathan Schoop to cut their deficit to two runs. Then Jorge Polanco drew a walk to bring the winning run to the plate. But Cruz, who had already homered earlier, took two strikes from Ian Kennedy, then flinched at a cutter well outside.
The Royals appealed, and the sellout crowd groaned: Baker ruled that Cruz had swung.
“It’s a close call. It’s a difficult call,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously we didn’t like the call, but I find them challenging.”
There are plenty of close calls in every game. One of them cost Miguel Sano an at-bat, too — as plate umpire Vic Carapazza later admitted.
Sano, who homered off Kansas City starter Jakob Junis in the fourth inning, came to bat in the fifth against reliever Jorge Lopez. After two quick strikes, Sano worked the count to 3-2, then fouled off a fastball. Lopez tried a knuckle curve that MLB’s StatCast data shows was low and wide of the strike zone. But Carapazza called it a strike.
Sano went back to the dugout and into the clubhouse, where he watched the pitch on replay. And when the inning ended, he stopped by the plate to tell Carapazza that the pitch wasn’t a strike.
“I talked to him and said, ‘That pitch is away and low,’ ” Sano said. “And he told me, ‘I know. I made a mistake.’ ”
Sano also was called out with two runners on base in the eighth inning, but that slider, from Wily Peralta, was at the bottom of the strike zone, according to StatCast. Sano disagreed, and wished he had that at-bat back, too.
“It wasn’t a strike. It was a low pitch,” he said. “It took my bat away, because if I can find another pitch, something can happen. And I was swinging it really good tonight.”
Still, he wasn’t too mad, Sano said. It’s hard to be mad on a first-place team.
“Sometimes we’re going to win, sometimes we’re not. The biggest thing is, we’re in first place,” he said. “This is the best team I’ve seen in my life, and we don’t have any pressure about anything. We’re really good.”
A tie at the office
Both teams wore tie-dyed baby blue caps, MLB’s tribute to Father’s Day, but Royals catcher Martin Maldonado took the occasion one step further. And more formal.
He wore a tie.
“I just wanted to do something different for the fathers out there, family members, friends,” Maldonado said of the blue tie, emblazoned with the names of his father and brothers and “Happy Father’s Day,” that he wore over his chest protector for all nine innings. “Something to wear for them.”
• The Twins had another sloppy day in the field, with Sano missing a hard ground ball for an error, Mike Morin missing first base on a grounder to first baseman Ehire Adrianza for another, and Eddie Rosario dropping a fly ball on the run, a play that was ruled a hit for Maldonado. They gave up four unearned runs Sunday and have committed 10 errors in the past five games. “It was not our sharpest effort. If you look at each one of those plays, they’re plays we want to make and we have to make going forward,” Baldelli said. “But they’re not the easiest of plays.”
• Center fielder Byron Buxton was out of the lineup for a second day in a row because of a bruised right wrist. “We’re going to always be relatively conservative with him,” Baldelli said. “He really likes to play, and probably will say what he has to say to get back in the lineup, even if he’s not physically OK to play. And you have to respect that. But sometimes I might have to, the training staff might have to slow him down a little bit.”