Rocco Baldelli threw his cap, kicked dirt on home plate and screamed at a pair of umpires. But his fury was directed at someone 1,200 miles away.
The normally unflappable Twins manager unloaded his anger at home plate umpire Marty Foster and crew chief Alan Porter after Foster's judgment — that Gary Sanchez had tagged Whit Merrifield out at home plate, ending the 10th inning and keeping the game tied — was overruled in New York by replay umpire Jordan Baker.
His verdict: That Sanchez had violated the rule against blocking home plate, that he had not given Merrifield the required sliding path. Merrifield was ruled safe — scoring the eventual winning run in the Blue Jays' 3-2 victory — Baldelli was ejected, and the Twins grudgingly, bitterly settled for a split of the rowdy four-game series.
"That's beyond embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there," Baldelli fumed in a brief, profanity-laced postgame interview. "It's one of the worst moments I think we've seen of umpiring in any game I've ever been a part of in baseball. It was pathetic, what just played out."
Potentially critical, too. The Twins' two-game AL Central lead over Cleveland was sliced in half by the loss, with a road trip to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers own the best record in baseball, up next on Tuesday.
"It's a game that may have playoff implications at some point. And to have it taken away from us, it's tough," reliever Caleb Thielbar said. "It was pretty righteous, what [Baldelli] did. He was in the right, as far as I'm concerned."
As far as the Blue Jays were concerned, though, Baker simply administered justice.
"I know what the rule is. It's just a matter of whether or not it got called, and I think they rightfully called it correctly," Merrifield said. "I thought it was going to be overturned. I thought it should be overturned. Obviously, it's a big point in the game and you don't want it to come down to a rules decision, but the rules are there for a reason."
The blowup added an air of grievance to the Twins' disappointment over losing a game that appeared headed toward a euphoric finish. They trailed 2-0 from the third inning on, rallied with a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to tie the score and elate their noisy crowd, then snuffed the Blue Jays' 10th-inning scoring chance — if only momentarily — with that dramatic play at the plate.
The overturned call, though, deflated the momentum, and the Twins went quietly in the 10th, stranding Max Kepler at third base.
"I was angry. I took one warmup pitch" when the game resumed after Baldelli's tirade, said Thielbar, who was charged with the Merrifield's run, and the loss. "[The umpires] were a little confused about that. I was mad."
After Jose Miranda and Luis Arraez provided timely RBI singles in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the score, Merrifield began the 10th on second base. He moved up on a flyout to center, a play at third so close that the Twins challenged, to no avail.
Cavan Biggio then roped a medium-depth fly ball to Tim Beckham, an infielder playing left field. Beckham's throw got to the plate just ahead of Merrifield, who slid directly into Sanchez, and Foster called him out. The Twins mobbed Beckham as they came off the field, and though Toronto manager John Schneider challenged the call, even some of the Blue Jays believed the call would stand.
"I didn't think it would be overturned, to be honest. That's just one of those weird rules — it was a perfect throw, and it's like, does the guy have to move based on the throw?" said Toronto starter Kevin Gausman, who pitched six shutout innings. "It was essentially a strike. If I'm Gary Sanchez, what else am I supposed to do? But huge for us."
The rule, intended to eliminate injurious collisions, says a catcher cannot block the plate until he has the ball, unless the throw takes him there. Baker judged Sanchez moved into foul territory not because of the throw, and in doing so, denied Merrifield a path to the plate.
You agree, Gary?
"I thought it was a clean play," Sanchez said, via a translator. "He didn't use the outside lane, he went on top of me. If I lower my knee before I get the ball, or before the runner gets to home plate, then I'm blocking the plate. That's not what I did. I caught the ball and then went down to tag him. It's a clean play."
"Awful. Awful. Awful, in every possible way," said Baldelli, who figures to face a fine or even a suspension for his remarks. "You're looking for umpires to keep things in order on the field, and the guys in the replay booth clearly did not. I think it was pathetic."