After tallying just two hits through eight innings, the Minnesota Twins seemed unlikely to do much against the Angels and starter Jered Weaver in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in the series finale. But after Weaver gave way to closer Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, Minnesota had new life when Frieri walked Clete Thomas and hit Doug Bernier to open the inning.
Just when it looked like the Twins might rally, they were done in by a call they felt should have gone in their favor but didn’t. Minnesota’s Justin Morneau hit a soft popup off Frieri with no outs. Instead of catching the ball, Frieri let it drop to the grass before picking it up. He then fired to first base for the force out of Morneau, and the Angels got Bernier in a rundown for a double play.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue the call, believing the infield fly rule should have been called. After a calm discussion, Gardenhire walked off the field. The Twins eventually lost the game two batters later when Chris Herrmann struck out swinging for the third and final out.
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“It’s a judgment call on the infield fly,” Gardenhire said. “They said the pitcher wasn’t camped underneath it. There was a reason why he didn’t camp underneath it, because he was going to let it fall. … It could have been called, but it was not the obvious call. There was mass confusion on the base paths after that.”
According to Major League Baseball rules on MLB.com, an infield fly is “a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.”
When that happens, the batter is automatically ruled out and the runners may advance at their own risk. But Morneau was not ruled out, so when Frieri let the ball drop, Thomas and Bernier were forced to run.
While the Twins felt the infield fly rule should have been called, the Angels disagreed.
“I don’t think it was a gray area, but it was close,” said Angels catcher Chris Iannetta. “The ball really wasn’t that high. It never really got to a peak. The sun’s involved in a day game. It’s not the easiest play in the world. It looks easy on TV and it looks easy from the side, but obviously there’s a lot going on.”
Pelfrey continues to progress: Twins starter Mike Pelfrey found himself in a pitcher’s duel Wednesday, matching Angels ace Jered Weaver for most of the game. Pelfrey allowed just one run over six innings, but he wound up on the wrong side of this duel as Weaver kept the Twins scoreless on just two hits through eight innings.
Still, Pelfrey continued to show signs of progress one year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Including Wednesday’s one-run effort, Pelfrey has now allowed just six total runs over his last four starts, an ERA of 2.28 over that stretch.
He lowered his season ERA to 5.15 on Wednesday, nearly a full run below what it was when he landed on the disabled list in mid-June. All five of the Angels hits Pelfrey allowed in the 1-0 loss were singles. The only run he surrendered came in the first inning when Albert Pujols’ slow roller to center scored J.B. Shuck from second base.
After that, Pelfrey kept the Twins in the game, but he couldn’t get much help from his offense.
“He threw the ball really well for us, only giving up one,” Gardenhire said of Pelfrey. “Normally you hold a team to that and you have a chance to win. Well, there at the end we did. It just didn’t go our way.”
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.