A trio of extras from the Twins’ 11th loss in 12 games:
Catchers are trained to allow bunts or rollers up the line to go foul, especially if it appears the spin will carry them into foul ground. That’s normally a smart play, because it can be difficult to catch fast runners at first base — but it probably wasn’t the right call on Monday.
With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, Lance Lynn fooled Lourdes Gurriel with a low fastball, and he tapped the ball perhaps 15 feet toward third base. Mitch Garver jumped out behind the plate and calculated that the ball would probably not stay fair, so he waited for it to roll foul.
While he did, however, Yangervis Solarte raced past him and touched home plate.
“Not sure the thought process there,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “We were looking to make an out on that play if we could.”
Instead, the ball all but stopped, and while it might have been just to the left of the foul line, it might not have, too. Home plate umpire Adam Hamari didn’t believe it had. He called it fair, meaning Gurriel was safe at first base, Solarte had scored, and the Blue Jays led, 1-0.
“I could run that play back 100 times, [and] 95 times it might go foul,” Garver said. But his training kicked it, rather than situational anticipation: It’s going to go foul, so let it.
“That’s something we’ve worked on throughout our whole lives, seeing that ball, reading the spin, understanding what the ball might do,” agreed Garver, who also contributed two hits and his first non-home run RBI of the season. “And in this case, I thought it was foul when I reached out and grabbed it. According to Adam, it was not.”
Lynn watched the play and said he yelled, “Tag him, tag him,” as Solarte approached. But he admitted that Garver may not have seen Solarte coming, and judged letting it roll his best bet.
“Right off the bat, it looked like it was going to go foul, and it just hugged the line. It was spinning, but it just never kicked away,” Lynn said. “It was just a weird play, and he did the best he could.”
Fair/foul calls are only reviewable if they take place in the outfield, so the Twins had no recourse. And Molitor wasn’t sure if the call was right, or if his catcher was. “From our angle, we couldn’t tell. It looked like it was hovering” on the line,” he said. “We found out after the fact that there’s a chance it might have been foul. But he was a lot closer than I was. I was looking right down the line, and couldn’t tell if it was on or off it.”
In retrospect, Garver said, he may have blocked Hamari’s view of the play, but he wasn’t thinking about that as it happened. “That could have been a big momentum change for us,” the catcher said “Looking back on it, if I had what the viewer saw on TV, and what the fans saw, I would have went out and grabbed the ball and tagged the guy running down the line. But I made my instinctual play, and that wasn’t it.”
Lynn said he has no explanation for his terrible start to the season, especially since he’s normally so good — a career 2.85 ERA before this season — in the first month. But he’s also still confident that he can fix himself.
“I’m going to be all right. I’ve just got to be me and attack hitters and make pitches. I’ve got the ability to do that,” he said.
Could the probable be with his mechanics? Lynn doesn’t think so. His pitching style is so simple — barely any windup, mostly just throwing fastballs — that there’s not much to go wrong.
“I’ve made much worse pitches in my career and got outs with them. That’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” said Lynn, who has walked five batters in a game only nine times in his career — three of them in 2018. “It’s going to happen. I’ve just got to keep plugging away here, keep getting everything where it needs to be, and the next thing you know, I’ll be right where I want to be.”
A better start would have produced a rare victory, because the Twins managed to score in four straight innings. Max Kepler had a triple and two doubles, Robbie Grossman had a single and double, and Eduardo Escobar crushed a 410-foot home run to straightaway center field, his fourth of the year.
The Twins also put the tying run on second base in the ninth off Toronto’s all-star closer, Roberto Osuna, but Grossman’s fly ball to center wasn’t deep enough.
“We came up a couple of times with the chance to take the lead or tie it,” Molitor said. “There were some positives.”
But Lynn’s negatives overshadow them at the moment.
“They’re frustrating,” he said. “You think you’re making pitches in the heat of the moment, and you look back and they’re just off. You’ve just got to change your sights, change your frame of mind.”