Sometimes in sports, you have to take on the opposing team. . .and, as Minnesota sports fans know all too well, sometimes you have to take on the opposing team and the officials at the same time. That was the case at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon, as a terribly blown call by third base umpire Gary Darling allowed the Tigers to score the winning run and send the Twins to a 6-5 loss.
It looked, initially, like it was going to be a long day for the Twins, as they got two runs in the bottom of the first inning courtesy of a Brandon Boesch RBI groundout and a solo home run by Miguel Cabrera off of Twins' starter Nick Blackburn. The Tigers added another run in the third when Alex Dirks' double allowed Brandon Inge to come around to score, increasing the Detroit Lead to 3-0.
Minnesota started mounting a comeback in the top of the fourth, however, as Michael Cuddyer drove in Jason Kubel with a single to right, cutting the lead to 3-1. The Twins then exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth. Danny Valencia led off the inning with a double, and came home to score on a single by Rene Rivera, cutting the Tigers' lead to 3-2. After a walk to Denard Span, Alexi Casilla reached on a bunt single to load the bases for Minnesota, and Kubel's single to right brought home Rivera to tie the game at three, leaving the bases loaded.
Justin Morneau then lifted a fly ball to left field that was deep enough to score Span from third, and give the Twins their first lead of the afternoon at 4-3. Cuddyer then singled to center, bringing home Casilla and increasing the lead to 5-3, but that's all the Twins would get, as Jim Thome and Delmon Young were retired to end the inning.
Unfortunately, the Tigers got two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, when Victor Martinez took Blackburn out of Comerica Park to right field for a two-out, two-run home run to tie the score at 5. That's the way things remained until the bottom of the eighth, when the controversy happened.
Alex Burnett came in to pitch to start the bottom of the eighth, and quickly got the first two outs on a ground out by Cabrera and a strike out of Martinez. Jhonny Peralta then reached base on an infield single, giving the Tigers a runner on first with two outs. Up came Tigers' catcher Alex Avila, who laced one towards the shorter fence that Comerica Park has along the left field line. A fan. . .at least one fan, anyway. . .leaned over the railing and touched the live ball that was still in play, which should have resulted in a ground rule double for Avila and the Tigers having runners at second and third with two outs.
However, third base umpire Gary Darling inexplicably awarded Peralta home plate, basically declaring that he would have come around to score on the play, despite replay showing that Peralta was just barely around second base when the illegal touch happened. The umpires converged, decided as a group that they wanted to make the incorrect call, and allowed the run to stand, giving the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire was, quite rightfully, furious with the call, came out to argue things with Darling, and was subsequently tossed. Burnett struck out Ryan Raburn to end the inning with no further damage being done. Unfortunately, the Twins could get nothing done off of Tigers' closer Jose Valverde in the top of the ninth, and were sent to their second straight defeat.
Burnett was saddled with the loss for the Twins, thanks to the run that never should have happened, and his record on the season drops to 1-4. Al "I Knew I Should Have Taken That Left Turn At" Alburquerque got the win for the Tigers after pitching a scoreless eighth inning, moving his record on the year to 2-1. Valverde's save was his thirteenth of the season.
The same two teams will get together tomorrow night at Comerica Park, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM. As it stands now, the pitching match-up will feature lefty Brian Duensing (2-5, 4.83 ERA) taking the mound for the Twins, with the Tigers sending righty Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.86 ERA) to the hill.