Rocco Baldelli tries to not belabor calls, whether in-game to the officials or postgame to the media. It's not always the most productive conversation, after all, and oftentimes is as futile as shaking his fist at the sky for all the wrongdoings in the world.
But the Twins manager had to make an exception Saturday night, when a 10th-inning decision in a close ballgame threatened to impact its outcome. With a runner on second to start the 10th, Andres Gimenez banked a hit off the right-field wall.
That shot drove in a run, but as Gimenez rounded first on his way for a double, he collided with Twins first baseman Jose Miranda and toppled back, sitting dazed for several seconds before eventually getting up and limping back to first.
The officials determined that to be obstruction on Miranda's part and awarded Gimenez second base. This spurred Baldelli to emerge from the dugout and argue with the officials, who eventually ejected him for the sixth time in his managerial career.
Myles Straw's single scored Gimenez, whose run became the game-winner, as Cleveland took down the Twins 3-2 at Target Field in front of an announced 22,939 fans.
In the clubhouse after the game, Baldelli was still frustrated. He pointed to a very specific, albeit not often used, rule that he feels the officials did not interpret correctly.
"The runner has to continue on and try to make an effort. Even if he's leveled on the ground, he has to continue to make an effort to get to second base, and he did not," Baldelli said. "… There's also no guarantee he's going to be safe on a rocket off the wall at second base.
"… In a very tight ballgame, there's a lot of things that matter and a lot of things that come up. And you don't want to lose a game like that. No one's out there trying to make any mistakes or anything like that, but I think that it was something that led to us losing the game."
That is a fair point, but the Twins still had the bottom of the 10th inning to come back, though that effort petered out after Gio Urshela's consolation RBI single.
Down two runs in a do-or-die situation would have seemed to be the perfect opportunity to call upon Byron Buxton. The star center fielder did not start the game, one of the several games early this season the Twins have scheduled him to rest, but what about his availability off the bench?
Baldelli said that was not an option. "He wasn't going to get in the game and get loose and fire up and get in the cage. It would take a while for him to get ready to go out there," he said. "… We discussed that as a group, but ultimately, I make that decision. When we make the decision before the game, we don't change what we're going to do when the game gets going."
Extra innings wasn't the only time the Twins could have taken control of the game. Spot starter Devin Smeltzer gave up only one run on three hits in five innings, on Franmil Reyes' second-inning RBI single. Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Joe Smith and Emilio Pagan kept the score tied through the ninth before Jharel Cotton pitched that fateful 10th.
"The crowd was awesome. I miss that," Smeltzer said after his 2022 Twins debut. "You don't have that in Triple-A, no matter where you play. So, just having that environment and being back in a uniform is just awesome."
Offensively, the Twins loaded the bases twice but couldn't manage any runs from those opportunities, with Max Kepler striking out to end the third inning and Urshela hitting into a double play in the fifth.
Urshela did hit a tying home run off Shane Bieber in the fourth inning. The 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner went six innings, giving up seven hits with that one run while striking out seven.
Baldelli, though, will likely still be perplexed for some time as to how the 10th-inning call so contradicted his understanding of the rulebook. Ultimately, though, there is only one recourse — however unsatisfying.
"I don't think there's anything that we can do about it," Baldelli said. "We have to move on and get ready to play [Sunday]."