One day after the Royals were involved in a remarkable display of pitching and defensive play that carried a scoreless tie into extra innings in Oakland, Royals starter Mike Montgomery ran into the “Bomba Squad” in Minnesota.
Montgomery gave up three home runs and a walk before he was ejected by home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez in the fifth inning.
The Twins, who set a major-league record with five players having hit 30 or more home runs in a season, hit four homers, which accounted for seven runs as the Royals lost the third game in a row, 8-5, in front of 24,565 in the series opener Thursday night at Target Field.
Montgomery, who allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk in four innings, earned his first career ejection shortly after a mound visit from Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred that seemed intended to calm down the veteran left-hander.
“It was a frustrating night,” Montgomery said. “It just boiled over at the end. It wasn’t so much the actual calls, umpires are human and he had a bad night. It was more about I thought he was intentionally doing it because I had mentioned a few times earlier in the game that I thought a few balls were strikes.
“That’s the issue I have. They are supposed to be objective and call the game the right way. I don’t think he did that tonight. I got nothing against the guy. I’m sure he’s usually a pretty good umpire. But at the end of the day, he’s got to do his job. And if he doesn’t, there has to be some consequences for those guys. We definitely have it as players.”
By the time Montgomery was ejected, he already had a head full of steam because he believed Gonzalez’s calls had turned personal. Montgomery felt like he got squeezed during an at-bat against Twins slugger Nelson Cruz. Cruz hit the first of his two home runs in that at-bat.
In the fifth, Montgomery had just given up his third home run of the night, a fifth-inning solo shot my Mitch Garver. That at-bat included a pair of borderline calls that didn’t go Montgomery’s way.
Montgomery stepped off the rubber and took a few steps behind the mound to gather himself before hearing what Eldred had to say. When Gonzalez came out to break up the mound meeting, he and Montgomery got in a brief-but-heated verbal exchange.
“That last at-bat is what set me over (the top). He was giving me that look, like, ‘I’m going to (mess with) you,’” Montgomery said. “I don’t think umpires should have that right. I think they have to be objective, and if they can’t be, I hate to say it, we need to go to automated zones. I’ve never been one to advocate that. But it’s definitely something for the league to consider.
“He knew he was wrong. That’s why he took so long coming out. He pointed out toward me and machoed up, and I say, ‘Throw me out, then.’ My emotions got the most of me. We’re trying to win a game.”
Replay showed Gonzalez telling Montgomery to stop talking, and Montgomery’s reply included a few expletives. Montgomery flipped the ball on the ball on the ground dismissively in the direction of Gonazalez on his way to the dugout.
“He was arguing balls and strikes,” umpiring crew chief Sam Holbrook said to a pool reporter.
Holbrook also confirmed that Gonzalez warned Montgomery prior to the ejection.
“He (warned him). He did,” Holbrook said. “Montgomery continued, and wound up getting ejected.”
The Royals (56-98) have had four ejections in their last seven games. Outfielder Alex Gordon and manager Ned Yost were ejected on Sept. 13, while bench coach Dale Sveum got ejected on Sept. 14. All four ejections were for arguing balls and strikes.
The Twins scored two runs in the fifth, one against reliever Jacob Barnes after Montgomery left the game, to take a 6-5 lead. Each team led twice through five innings, but the Twins (94-59) didn’t trail after the fifth.
Cruz’s second home run of the night, a two-run shot in the seventh off of Royals reliever Jake Newberry, gave the Twins an 8-5 lead.
The Royals squandered a scoring opportunity in the eighth inning when the first two batters, Meibrys Viloria (1 for 2, walk, run, RBI) and Nicky Lopez (3 for 4, two runs, RBI) singled. The next three batters went down in order.
“I thought we swung the bats much better tonight than we have,” Yost said. “In the Oakland series, we faced some really good pitching. But (Twins starter Kyle) Gibson has always been tough on us.
“I thought we took a couple walks in the second inning that were probably a result of the same thing we were battling. Some of those pitches could’ve gone either way, and we got benefit of it. It just seemed like he was more of a hitter’s umpire tonight on certain occasions.”
The four-game series continues on Friday night. Left-hander Eric Skoglund (0-1, 8.36) will start for the Royals, while the Twins had yet to announce a starter as of the start of Thursday night’s game.