Veteran Hunter throws a fit during Twins' setback
MINNEAPOLIS -- As if the Minnesota Twins' frustration wasn't already evident, Torii Hunter ripped off his jersey and threw it on the field just to make things clear.
Hunter was ejected in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 7-2 loss to Kansas City after arguing a called third strike. Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger allowed Hunter to get in a few words before Hunter earned his ninth career ejection. Soon after, first-year manager Paul Molitor received the first ejection of his brief managerial career.
But Hunter wasn't done. He continued to yell at Ripperger, letting his emotions show as he got up into the umpire's face. At one point, Molitor had to restrain his right fielder before Hunter then took off his elbow pad and batting gloves and threw them onto the field in anger.
More clothing came off soon thereafter. Hunter took off his No. 48 jersey and threw it toward the pitcher's mound, landing it just on the other side of the first-base line. It was the boiling point for a Twins team that was swept by the Royals and fell from first place to second in the American League Central.
"Just a lot of emotions, man," Hunter said after the game. "I thought the last pitch he called a strike was revenge because I said something the pitch before that, because it was definitely a ball. We have bad days, all of us -- as hitters, pitchers. Even umpires have bad days, and he had one. What can you do?"
It remains to be seen if Hunter -- whose postgame media session was cut short after just one question -- will receive a suspension for making contact with Ripperger or first base umpire Jeff Kellogg. Molitor said a suspension is "always a possibility," but will wait and see what the league has to say about Hunter's outburst.
"I don't want to try to predict or speculate how the league offices are going to respond to his actions," Molitor said. "I'm sure it will be reviewed and considered as to whether a suspension's appropriate or not."
Though it appeared on the surface that Hunter was upset with the strike zone, his outburst was a microcosm of how he and the rest of the Twins are feeling after getting swept at home by the Royals. Minnesota finished its six-game homestand with a 1-5 record and fell from first place in the process.
The three-game series between the Twins and Royals was being billed by some as the Twins' biggest series since 2010. It had been a while since Minnesota was relevant in the American League Central, and the Twins entered this series in first place in the division with second-place Kansas City just one game back. Though it's only early June, a bit of buzz has started to surround Minnesota after its 20-win month of May.
Three games later, the Twins are two games back of the Royals after scoring just three runs in three games. It's the first time Minnesota has lost more than two games in a row since the first week of the season.
Given how flat the Twins were in this series, it's not a surprise to see frustration showing, especially from Hunter.
"I think the frustration has been there over the past week as results have changed for us, at least here in the short-term," Molitor said. "Things get magnified. An umpire never has a perfect night. It just seemed like in Torii's case, there were a couple pitches throughout the night that he had taken a little exception to. . . . I think he just let him know what he thought about it. I went out there to try to protect him a little bit. I became a sideshow to the big show."
Fans started chanting "Torii! Torii!" as Hunter began to disrobe. Meanwhile, his skipper was also on his way to the clubhouse early for the first time as manager.
So what got Molitor tossed?
"I just told (Ripperger) he had a bad night. . . . He told me he had a really good night," Molitor said. "I thought they were cheering because I was arguing for a change. When I turned around, I saw the jersey coming off and then I realized that Torii hadn't quite reached the end of his whatever you want to call it."
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