The retaliation was sure to follow as soon as Twins star catcher Joe Mauer was drilled in the back by Rangers starter Roy Oswalt.
On a 3-0 pitch, Oswalt — who is averaging just 1.8 walks per nine innings this season — threw a pitch up and in to Mauer in the top of the third inning. The pitch hit Minnesota’s catcher and it appeared to be intentional, although Oswalt denied after the Rangers’ 10-6 win that he was trying to hit Mauer.
“I was trying to get him out in and just dropped my elbow,” Oswalt said. “I don’t know the reason why the ball’s coming back on the left side of the plate. I can keep it true on the right side, but the left side I can’t really keep it true. I dropped my elbow and it kind of sailed on me.”
In the bottom half of the third inning, Twins left-hander Scott Diamond threw a pitch that sailed behind the head of Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton on the first pitch of the at-bat. Without warning, Diamond — Minnesota’s best pitcher this season — was ejected by home plate umpire Wally Bell. It was Diamond’s first ejection of his young career.
“It was a close game to start with and there was obviously a little bit of fireworks there,” said Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs in Thursday’s win. “That’s the way baseball’s supposed to be played. I think the pitch got away from Diamond a little bit and got up in the head area. I think that’s why he got ejected. … The pitch right there, if it’s a little bit lower, he probably doesn’t get ejected and we go on and play the game.”
Surely enough, Diamond’s ejection brought Twins manager Ron Gardenhire out of Minnesota’s dugout in a hurry. Not long after Diamond was given the hook, Gardenhire was ejected for the third time this season and the 62nd time of his career.
After the game, Gardenhire was asked if he felt Diamond’s ejection without first being given a warning was fair.
“I’m not going to get into that,” Gardenhire said. “I’m not going to get into that at all. Everybody saw that. I don’t have to talk about that. If you think that’s the right way to handle that situation, then we differ in opinion. … I’ve never seen it handled like that before. That’s just the way it went.”
Like Oswalt, Diamond said he didn’t intend to hit Hamilton. In 19 starts prior to Thursday, however, Diamond had issued a league-low 1.3 walks per nine innings. He had hit just four batters in 128 innings.
“My control wasn’t as great tonight. I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” said Diamond, who gave up two runs before his ejection. “I thought I got the hook a little early, but I’m glad that it didn’t actually connect or hurt anybody.”
Diamond added that he never really got an explanation from Bell as to why he was ejected without first receiving a warning.
“I never got an answer. He just kind of shook his head at me,” Diamond said. “That’s what I think Gardy talked to him about. I was kind of ushered off the field, so I didn’t really get a response.”
With Diamond out after just 2 1/3 innings, Minnesota turned to right-hander Anthony Swarzak out of the bullpen. Swarzak was given extra time to warm up due to Diamond’s quick exit. And with Gardenhire also tossed from the game, the managerial duties fell to Twins bench coach Scott Ullger.
Swarzak lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk before he gave way to right-hander Jeff Gray. Minnesota’s already overworked bullpen used four
Thursday’s game easily marked Diamond’s shortest outing of his stellar season, althought it obviously came in unusual circumstances Prior to Thursday, his shortest outing was 5 1/3 innings, which happened in two starts.
The Twins and Rangers have three more games to play in the series. After Thursday’s heated third inning, the rest of the weekend in Arlington should be interesting.