A handful of extras after the Twins won the season series from Texas for the second straight year:
Umpire Marty Foster came to the Twins’ dugout with an unusual question on Sunday. After Rangers manager Jeff Banister challenged Foster’s call at the plate, Foster needed to know whether Twins manager Paul Molitor intended to challenge Ryan Blakney’s call at second base.
It was an intriguing and uncommon play, one that ultimately decided the game. And it demanded that Molitor make a decision on one call before the other could be decided.
Here’s the situation: Eduardo Escobar was on second base with two outs in a tie game when Robbie Grossman lined a pitch from Austin Bibens-Dirkx off the right-field wall. Escobar, assuming he could score easily, jogged around third base and headed to the plate. But Grossman decided to stretch his hit into a double — a misjudgment, as it turned out.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus tagged Grossman out on an extremely close play at second base, at virtually the same instant that Escobar touched home plate. Foster signaled that Escobar had indeed scored, but Banister quickly challenged the call, protesting that Grossman was tagged first, negating Escobar’s run.
Rather than go to the replay, however, Foster came over to Molitor, asking if he planned to challenge Blakney’s out call on Grossman.
“I thought I could wait” for Banister’s challenge to be adjudicated, Molitor said. “But they asked me for my [decision] first.”
That’s because, under new pace-of-play rules this year, teams are only supposed to get 30 seconds to decide whether to challenge. “We had a decision from [the clubhouse, where video coordinator Sean Harlin was monitoring replays] that it was too close, that we weren’t going to get it overturned,” Molitor said. “So I had to rely on the hope that Esko had scored.”
It put the replay umpire in an unusual situation, too: Had he judged that the out call at second base was incorrect, he would have had to ignore that fact and rule simply on whether Escobar had scored in time. Ultimately, Banister’s challenge was denied, the run scored, and the Twins went on to win.
That wasn’t the only close play that saved the Twins on Sunday, either. When Shin-soo Choo and Andrus led off the fifth inning with singles off Twins starter Jose Berrios, and moved up to second and third on Nomar Mazara’s grounder, Molitor decided to take a gamble on his defense. With Adrian Beltre at the plate, Molitor moved his infielders in to the edge of the grass.
“We were taking a shot there,” Molitor said. “If they get one through the infield, they take the lead, but we took a shot that we would get a ball on the ground.”
As luck would have it, it worked. Beltre hit a hard grounder toward shortstop Jorge Polanco, who scooped it up and threw to the plate just in time to nail Choo.
“The hard part of the play was, [Polanco] had to back up a little bit to get the right hop, which takes away your momentum for a throw. But he didn’t panic, and made an accurate throw.”
Speaking of Polanco, the 24-year-old infielder singled, walked and scored a run Sunday, his fourth straight game with a hit. His batting average remains only .217, but at least he appears to be conquering his slump, Molitor said.
“The right-handed [side] is a little behind the left-handed side, but he was able to bang one up the middle,” Molitor said of the switch-hitter. “I’m sure that each hit that comes his way, there’s a lightness to it that he hasn’t felt for awhile. And you can see it. He kind of looks a little more himself, when he runs out and takes his position defensively.”