ANAHEIM, CALIF. – With starter Jered Weaver out of the game, the Twins had to like their chances in the ninth inning on Wednesday against Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, who blew a game with authority on Tuesday night.
Sure enough, Clete Thomas walked. Doug Bernier fouled two bunts, but there was Frieri helping the Twins out by plunking him.
Runners were on first and second with no outs. Justin Morneau was batting. The Angel Stadium crowd was nervous.
Then something went the wrong way. Some would say that the Twins were robbed.
Morneau popped up a ball near the mound. It looked like a situation made for the infield fly rule to be called, but no one from crew chief Ted Barrett’s umpiring crew moved a muscle.
Frieri got near the ball and let it drop. He gathered the ball and threw to first to retire Morneau as the other surprised runners took off. Bernier ended up in a rundown and was tagged out as Thomas advanced to third.
Why no infield fly rule?
“For an infield fly, we look for if the ball has arc and if the fielder can catch it with ordinary effort, and if the fielder gets comfortably underneath,” Barrett said. “That one definitely had enough arc, but the fielder has to get comfortably underneath the ball to catch it. That’s the criteria that wasn’t met.”
Poppycock, the Twins said.
“There’s a reason why he wasn’t camped underneath it,’’ manager Ron Gardenhire said, “because he was going to let it fall.’’
Bernier ended up in a tough spot. “I kind of felt like I was in no-man’s land trying to get to second base,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. All I was doing was waiting to see what was going to happen. The ball fell, there was no call so I tried to go from there.”
With the infield fly rule, runners can remain at their bases and advance at their own risk while the batter is out. Since the rule wasn’t used, the Angels were able to get two outs. Frieri, now off the ropes, struck out Chris Herrmann to close out a 1-0 victory — one night after Herrmann hit a 10th-inning grand slam off him.
“That rule was put it to avoid that happening,’’ Morneau said. “Those are the breaks.’’
The last time Weaver faced the Twins in his home stadium, he threw a no-hitter on May 2, 2012.
There was some of that dominance Wednesday. Weaver held the Twins to two hits and one walk over eight innings. If not for Bernier’s single in the first inning, the Twins would have been sweating out another no-hit situation.
“You know you have your work cut out when you face him,” Ryan Doumit said.