Twins not leaning on close call in wake of loss
Gardenhire earns ejection after seventh-inning ball helps Yanks
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ron Gardenhire and Hunter Wendelstedt have a history dating back to 2005, but it didn't feel like the distant past when they were nose-to-nose on Thursday night. The Twins' struggles to recover from that moment in the seventh inning might give them a limited future in this American League Division Series.
From Gardenhire to pitcher Carl Pavano -- both of whom wanted a called third strike on Pavano's 1-2 pitch to Lance Berkman -- the Twins said home-plate umpire Wendelstedt's difference of opinion didn't unravel Game 2 for them. They knew they had to make plays after that, and Pavano fully realized he should've made pitches before that.
When they didn't, they fell into the same 0-2 series trap as the Tampa Bay Rays, who also had a controversial call and a managerial ejection precede their fall to the Rangers earlier in the day.
"We didn't get it done tonight," Gardenhire said. "They got it done. They got some hits. We played hard. We had our chances. We were in the ballgame. Carl was pitching his [rear end] off, and it didn't work out for us. We had a bad inning out there. A couple of things didn't go our way. That's the way it is in these games."
Pavano saw two plays that turned the inning, and neither of them were the call.
It's the same way Yankees closer Mariano Rivera looked at a similarly close call in Game 1 that gave Delmon Young a ninth-inning, two-out single instead of a being ruled a game-ending catch by right fielder Greg Golson. Rivera made his pitch afterward and got the third out anyway. Pavano arguably didn't miss his pitch, which appeared to be a strike on television replays and on Pitch f/x, but neither did Berkman.
Posada's walk came immediately before Berkman's at-bat. Pavano located a 3-1 sinker on the outside corner to run the count full, but barely missed the inside corner on his payoff pitch.
If there was issue with Wendelstedt, it would've been with consistency, not location. A hitter or pitcher can adjust to an individual umpire's strike zone. If the same pitch in the same location draws different calls, notably when they're consecutive pitches, that can pose a challenge.
That didn't seem to be a case during the Berkman at-bat. After a first-pitch ball, Pavano got the count back even with a sinker outside that drew the strike call from Wendelstedt. Like on the broadcast, Pitch f/x shows the pitch outside the strike zone. However, Wendelstedt seemed to be giving the outside corner at times throughout the evening.
After Berkman fouled off a cutter to go to a 1-2 count, Pavano went inside for the only time in the at-bat and ended up with the pitch in contention, a 91-mph sinker that seemingly dropped on the inside corner. Wendelstedt called it a ball, running it to 2-2.
"If [I argued] every time I thought a ball should have been called a strike, I wouldn't be able to go out there and pitch," Pavano said. "That's not really the frame of mind that I really think about. It's not something that I worry about. I don't think it does you any justice or your teammates any justice if you lose your emotions over a missed call or not a missed call."
Pavano's next pitch seemed to back up that mindset. It was a changeup that started low and dropped below the knees and out of the zone. Berkman got to it and sent it to the center-field fence, scoring Posada from first and putting the Yankees ahead for good.
It was the second changeup Berkman drove off Pavano on the night. He hit one on a 2-0 count for a solo homer in the fifth inning.
"Yeah, it was down," Pavano said. "Changed speeds. The changeup he hit 2-0 [in his previous at-bat] I thought was a pretty good pitch and he put a pretty good swing on that, too. Maybe I played into his hands a little bit."
Gardenhire made a visit to the mound after that. Asked his message there, Gardenhire was simple.
"Calm Carl down," Gardenhire said, "Calm everything down on the mound and go from there."
By the time Gardenhire was back in the dugout, he was out of the game. Wendelstedt went to the mound to break up the visit. Gardenhire obliged, but walked back toward home with Wendelstedt and exchanged words. Wendelstedt ejected him before they got back to the plate.
Asked what prompted the ejection, crew chief and right-field umpire Jerry Crawford said, "Balls and strikes. That simple."
It was the third time Wendelstedt has ejected Gardenhire, and the previous two were not without aftermath. After a 2005 ejection, Gardenhire took issue with Wendelstedt tossing him when he was already in the dugout, and accused Wendelstedt of saying he wanted "show time."
The issue resurfaced last year when Wendelstedt ejected Gardenhire during a game in Detroit.
"I just get real disappointed when an umpire has an attitude like that and thinks he's a big shot and throws you out and feels good about it," Gardenhire said last year. "That's too bad."
Asked about their history on Thursday, Gardenhire shrugged off the question before it was finished.
"Hunter and I talked and we kind of straightened all our stuff away," Gardenhire said. "It has nothing to do with that at all. I went out to make sure my guys were straight on what we were going to do next and make my side of the story known. I thought the ball was a strike, he didn't call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that.
"But I wanted to get him away from my guys, because there are a lot of guys full of emotion at that time and I wanted Carl to concentrate."
Pavano said he was concentrating. But a mix-up on covering a Brett Gardner bunt led to a single, and Derek Jeter followed with a single that scored Berkman after Pavano put Jeter in an 0-2 count. That was the end of Pavano's night.
"My job is to go out there and make good pitches and execute good pitches, and I didn't do that," Pavano said. "That was one pitch out of how many I threw, almost 100. There was a lot of other pitches that beat me."