By Joe Christensen
ANAHEIM — I made a note on my scorecard today the minute the White Sox completed their controversial, A.J.-inspired victory over Tampa Bay.
The sixth inning had just ended here at Angel Stadium, and the Twins led 3-1.
For several moments, it had looked like the Twins would end the day leading the division by 1 1/2 games. (Again, they haven’t led by that much since May 12). Instead, they fell from first place — for the fifth time this month.
(I wrote some of this in my game story, which looks ahead to the Seattle series, and some in my notebook, but I’ll let you relive some of it now with bonus material. Darn nice of me, eh?)
The game changed on a seemingly harmless single by Mike Napoli in the seventh inning. Left fielder Jason Kubel froze as the ball bounced in front of him.
Howie Kendrick saw that hesitation and dashed from first-to-third. Kubel’s throw bounced off Kendrick’s cleat (total fluke) for an error, allowing Napoli to reach second base.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said Kubel “non-chalanted it. No excuse.”
Kubel said, “I kind of went a little too slow anticipating anything. I just wanted to make sure I caught the ball first of all and just got it in.”
Justin Morneau said, “They catch us on a play that shouldn’t have been a first-to-thrid play. That pretty much turned the game around.”
Who knows how the inning would have played differently if Napoli had stayed at first base? The key point is Kendrick should have been held at second on the hit. Gardenhire pulled starter Kevin Slowey and replaced him with Dennys Reyes, who got two ground balls, with Nick Punto making two good plays (the first one bobbled but at least salvaging an out) and Morneau making a huge scoop to end the inning.
HOME RUN REVERSAL
Kubel nearly attoned in the eighth inning, when he crushed a home run barely foul down the right-field line against Jose Arredondo. (OK, going to assume you know what happened, with the call correctly being reversed.)
Kubel didn’t watch the replay. “I was already mad enough,” he said.
Gardenhire said there was no reason to argue.
“What are you going to say?” he said. “Four guys go and say it’s not a home run. What argument do you have to tell you the truth? Everybody in our dugout probably thought it was a foul ball, too.”
Crew chief Randy Marsh told the Associated Press, “It was pretty unanimous right from the beginning. Nobody likes to reverse one, and I’ve been involved with some in pretty big situations like that. But when you get the call right, everyone’s behind you — the media and the teams on the field.”
Gardenhire let Reyes start the eighth, and Mark Teixeira, who killed the Twins all series, hit a leadoff double.
With Vladimir Guerrero coming to the plate, Gardenhire turned to Jesse Crain instead of Matt Guerrier, who warmed up a few batters later.
Vlady was 1-for-6 with a walk and no strikeouts against Crain and 0-for-6 with an RBI and two strikeouts against Guerrier.
“Jesse’s been throwing the ball,” Gardy said. “He had one inning [Thursday] where he just blew people away. We wanted fastballs there in that situation. That’s the guy we wanted to go to. Matty had a good outing [Thursday], and we’re not going to push it as much as we can. We’re going to use them both.
“Jesse’s got the gas [Yes, he said gas] and that’s what we wanted. We wanted hard-inside on [Vlady], and that’s what Jesse had, hard-inside.”
Crain’s first pitch was nearly perfect, and Guerrero hit a lazy foul down the right-field line just out of the reach of Morneau & Co. The next pitch was aimed inside and ended up outside.
“It was actually a good pitch, but it wasn’t the pitch we were trying for,” Crain said. “Supposed to try and go in. I left it — to any other hitter, it’s probably a good pitch but he can reach that part of the plate and hit it pretty good.”
Over Carlos Gomez’s head — very similar to the play Gomez missed in the Angels’ big third inning Saturday.
GOMEZ MISSES AGAIN
Should Gomez have caught this one, too?
“He hit it awfully hard,” Gardy said. “Whether he did [catch it] or not, he’s got to keep running. He jumped too quick, probably lost where he was at. But it was a rocket. It was just a bad pitch — throw one out and over the plate to Vlady right there, that’s what’s going to happen.”
BACK TO CRAIN
Crain followed with a big strikeout of Torii Hunter, who finished the series 2-for-16.
Then Crain had a 2-2 count to Gary Matthews Jr., when Matthews hit his RBI triple into the right-field corner.
“If you make pitches right there, you have a chance,” Gardenhire said.
Denard Span took a called third strike to end the game and had a heated reaction, drawing an ejection from home plate umpire Brian Gorman. (Yes, you can be ejected, even when the game’s over, apparently.)
Not sure if Span will be penalized for his actions, but he slammed his bat and got in Gorman’s face before first base coach Jerry White intervened.
The pitch definitely looked like a ball. You can see the call and the beginning of Span’s reaction here (hat tip on the link to MudCat.)
(*) Joe Mauer and Nick Punto extended their respective hitting streaks to 16 and 12 games.
(*) Slowey allowed two runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. That’s four good starts in a row, as he is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA since getting roughed up by Cleveland on Aug. 2.
(*) Morneau joined Harmon Killebrew (1969-71) as the only Twins who have reached 100 RBI three consecutive years. Morneau downplayed it because of the loss, but when asked a second time about having his name mentioned with Killebrew, he smiled.
(Morneau absolutely loves Killebrew, by the way, and you’ll note below that he knows exactly how many home runs Killebrew hit.)
“He’s a Hall of Famer — 573 homers,” Morneau said. “He’s the guy who’s got all the power records in our organization. To have my name next to him is pretty nice, but I’ve still got a long way to go to come close to what he did.”
(*) On a personal note, I’m very proud that I haven’t mentioned a certain scoreboard presence here, a certain simian, even once. I’ll check back with you tomorrow from Seattle. … And yes, there will be one last stop at In-n-Out Burger tonight on my way to LAX.