Wednesday night the Twins and Royals were tied and headed for extra innings when Star beat reporter Andy McCullough — a guy not known for his boundless enthusiasm — walked by and said: “Good game.”
For Andy, that’s like cracking open a bottle of champagne and dancing on a tabletop. Here’s why he was bubbling with joy: those of us who get paid to watch baseball watch a lot of baseball and a lot of it isn’t good baseball. The Royals will beat someone 15-1 and the next day someone will say it was a great game — but it wasn’t. The game was long and sloppy and didn’t have much interest after the first few innings.
So baseball writers sit in the press box, watch game after game — some good, some not so good — and every once in a while we’re rewarded with a really good game of baseball. And Wednesday’s game was one of them until the home plate umpire missed a pitch. It happened with two outs in the 12th inning:
The Twins sent pinch hitter Miguel Sano to the plate and after four pitches, the count was 2-2. Royals reliever Franklin Morales then threw strike three and there wasn’t much doubt about it. You see pitches that could go either way, but this wasn’t one of them. The 94-mph fastball was well within the strike zone, but home-plate umpire Greg Gibson called it ball three. Two pitches later, Sano homered and Gibson’s missed call allowed the Twins to go home with a 3-2 win.
It’s considered bad sportsmanship for big-league players and coaches to blame an umpire’s call for a loss; they’ll always say they had other opportunities to win and didn’t get the job done. But I’m not a big league player or coach so I can say what I really think:
It was a pretty good game until Greg Gibson messed it up.
The play at the plate in the 10th inning
Here’s the situation: 10th inning, one down, Jarrod Dyson on third base in a 2-2 tie. The Royals are 90 feet away from winning the ball game.
Lorenzo Cain hits a one-hopper back to the mound and Dyson breaks for home. Twins pitcher Blaine Boyer lurches to his left and snags the ball. Boyer does a complete 360 and then throws home. Get a pitcher off the pitcher’s mound, ask him to make a throw and goofy stuff can happen; Boyer’s throw is off-line, on the third-base side of home plate.
Minnesota catcher Kurt Suzuki is out in front of the plate. Boyer’s bad throw pulls Suzuki to his left and into the base path. Boyer’s throw is not only off line, it’s high and Suzuki has to reach above his head to catch the ball.
Dyson’s coming straight down the third-base line and goes into a slide at the front of the right-hand batter’s box. Kurt is still standing upright and Dyson slams into Kurt’s left knee, bending it in a direction left knees are not accustomed to. The collision takes place several feet from home plate. Suzuki makes the tag and Dyson never comes anywhere near touching home.
Before Dyson even gets up, he starts complaining to home-plate umpire, Greg Gibson; Dyson wants Gibson to rule that Suzuki was illegally blocking the plate. Dyson gets up and goes nose-to-nose with Gibson, Ned Yost comes out and peels Dyson away, the umpires review the play and Dyson’s still out.
What Kurt Suzuki had to say about the play
After the game I talked to Kurt in the visiting clubhouse; for starters, he told me his knee was OK, just bruised. I then asked Kurt just what the heck the rules are these days concerning plays at the plate. Here’s what Kurt said:
If the catcher does not have the ball in his possession, he cannot block the runner’s path to the plate and Suzuki started the play in fair territory.
If the catcher is in fair territory, the runner cannot try to run him over; there’s a clear path to the plate and the runner is expected to take it.
If the throw draws the catcher into the runner’s path, the catcher can go where he needs to go to make the catch, so Suzuki did nothing wrong. When a catcher is blocking the path to the plate, the runner can make contact, so Dyson did nothing wrong.
That’s the way the umpires saw it and the original call was not changed.
These days it’s pretty much required that sportswriters use Twitter during games. So each sportswriter has to decide how to use it and so far here’s what I’ve come up with: I’m assuming the people that follow me are…
A.) Royals fans and
B.) Watching the game
If you’re a Royals fan and watching the game you don’t need me to tell you that Jarrod Dyson is fast or Ben Zobrist just hit a home run. I tend to tweet if I have something to add that isn’t already obvious and that was the case Wednesday night.
In the sixth inning Lorenzo Cain got hit by a pitch. The night before Lorenzo fouled a ball off his knee, so I figured I’d mention that Lorenzo was feeling pretty beat up and that might show up later in the game.
But when I said Lorenzo got hit in the back, someone on the Internet wanted to argue about it; they said he got hit on the upper arm. I watched a replay of the pitch and Lorenzo got hit in the back; specifically the left shoulder blade. I put that out there and the Internet dude then said that wasn’t what he saw.
I believe this is how the Hatfield and McCoy feud started and to be honest, I just don’t have time for that. If you respond to one of my tweets there’s a good chance I won’t see it. And if you want to have an argument during a game there’s a really good chance I won’t participate.
Even if I wanted to — and I don’t — there’s just no time to have prolonged Internet conversations during a baseball game. I’m trying to pay attention to stuff like defensive positioning, pitch sequence and how many sliders a pitcher threw for strikes during his warmup. If you want to know what model bat Lorenzo Cain uses, I’m probably not going to have time to answer.
OK, just wanted to let you know why I may not respond to a comment.
P.S. You know who else thought Lorenzo Cain got hit in the back? Lorenzo Cain. When I asked where it got him he said “the back” and pointed to his left shoulder blade.