MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Twins have lost their cool and now find themselves on the brink of losing yet another AL division series to the New York Yankees.
Manager Ron Gardenhire’s long-running feud with umpire Hunter Wendelstedt flared up an inopportune time for the Twins, resulting in an ejection in the seventh inning of a 5-2 loss on Thursday night that put the Twins on the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series.
Minnesota has now lost 11 straight postseason games. Eight of those defeats have come to the Yankees.
The Twins have heard nothing but questions about their inability to beat the Yankees this week, and their frayed nerves surfaced in the seventh inning.
Carl Pavano appeared to have Yankees designated hitter Lance Berkman struck out, but Wendelstedt called the 2-2 pitch a ball. Berkman hit a double on the next pitch that put the Yankees ahead 3-2.
Gardenhire came out to visit Pavano on the mound and intentionally lingered, prompting Wendelstedt to come out and hurry things along. Gardenhire barked at Wendelstedt on his way back to the dugout and was quickly ejected.
It’s at least the fourth time Wendelstedt has ejected Gardenhire during his managerial career. Gardenhire was suspended for one game in 2005 after a profanity-laced rant to reporters about Wendelstedt following an ejection against Baltimore.
The two went back and forth again in 2009 after Wendelstedt gave him the hook in a game against the Tigers when Gardenhire wanted a balk call on Armando Galarraga.
“I would challenge (Gardenhire) to sit down and watch the replays,” Wendelstedt said then. “Because he was wrong. … I’m going to invite him to my umpire school. If he wants to learn what a balk is, he can come down in January to umpire school and we’ll teach him.”
Gardenhire’s reply: “If he’ll agree to take the chances over, I’ll go with him.”
In an Associated Press story about scouting reports on umpires that ran earlier this season, this is how one team assessed Wendelstedt: “Inconsistent zone, both in-game and from game-to-game, seemingly losing focus at times by balling pitches over middle and calling strikes on pitches well off plate. Seems to want hitter to put ball in play.”
Their latest confrontation resulted in the 53rd ejection of Gardenhire’s career and it appeared to rattle his team just a little. Brett Gardner laid down a bunt in the next at-bat, but rookie third baseman Danny Valencia couldn’t quite handle it on the barehand pickup, giving the Yankees runners on the corners and nobody out.
Derek Jeter followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2, and that margin was more than enough against the Twins’ punchless offense.
Joe Mauer went 1 for 4 with a single and has been a no-show in the first two games of the series. The reigning AL MVP is 2 for 9 with two singles in the first two games.
The bottom four hitters in Minnesota’s lineup – Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Valencia and J.J. Hardy – went 0 for 10 with one sacrifice fly.