|Doug Bernier heads to first base after|
being hit by a pitch in the ninth inning.
That said: I told my wife upon seeing the umpiring crew at the start of Monday's game that it was a bad crew. Mike Muchlinski and Alfonso Marquez? One of them is a bad sign; the both of them is practically a guarantee of a screw-up. This is probably the kind of low-grade crew a series pitting a pair of sub-.500 clubs should expect to see as the season dwindles, but it doesn't make the crew's inability to get the infield fly rule right any more palatable.
OK, the ninth inning. The Angels of Anaheim have a 1-0 lead and Ernesto Frieri, the closer the Twins had lit up for five runs less than 20 hours earlier, on the hill.
Frieri opens the frame by walking Clete Thomas. Doug Bernier fouls off two bunt attempts; Frieri then hits him with the 0-2 pitch. Two on, no outs, Justin Morneau up.
Now ... There were maybe three guys in the Minnesota lineup Wednesday who wouldn't be given the bunt sign in this situation, and Morneau is one of them. (The others are Ryan Doumit and perhaps Trevor Plouffe; chasing a tangent, Plouffe was allowed to hit away in a two-on, no-out ninth inning within the past week and hit into a double play, and Ron Gardenhire was second-guessing himself about that decision afterwards.)
Frieri opens with ball one. So ... a walk, a HBP, an immediate ball one. One might well conclude that any hitter should at this point be taking the next pitch. Let Frieri continue to beat himself. But it's Morneau, the former MVP, in a lineup of castoffs and unprovens. He's the best shot at getting the big hit.
So his thought process at this point should be: This is practically a 3-0 count. Look for a fastball that's in just the right place. Zone in on that and take anything else. If Morneau swings at the 1-0 pitch, he should hit a rocket.
Morneau swings at the 1-0 pitch and, instead of a rocket, hits a 60-foot pop-up. The umpires lack the wits to invoke the infield fly rule — crew chief Ted Barrett misquotes the rule after the game, saying Frieri had to be camped under it to make the call, which is NOT what the rulebook says — and the Angels turn it into a double play with Bernier hung out to dry. If he takes off for second, Frieri catches the pop-up and doubles him off first; Bernier instead clings to first, Frieri lets the ball drop, throws Morneau out and gets Bernier in the rundown.
The umps blew the call. Morneau blew the at-bat.