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Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was raging following a controversial call during his team’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
The Twins and the Blue Jays, both in the middle of playoff races, went into the 10th inning. Cavan Biggio was up and hit a pop fly that would send Whit Merrifield scurrying for home plate. Merrifield was initially called out at the plate on the bang-bang play, but after a challenge and review, it was ruled that he was safe because catcher Gary Sanchez was blocking the plate and didn’t establish a lane for Merrifield.
Target Field erupted in a loud chorus of boos and Baldelli came out of the dugout fuming. The Twins manager threw his cap onto the ground and was ejected from the game.
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Toronto won, 3-2.
Baldelli did not hold back during his postgame press conference.
“In all of baseball, the thousands and thousands of games and plays at home where the catcher actually does block the plate over and over and over again, that play has virtually never been called,” he said via Bally Sports North. “And for someone to step in in that situation and [decide] someone was blocking the plate, that’s beyond embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there on both sides of the field working their ass off for the entire game. It’s completely unacceptable.
“It’s one of the worst moments I think we’ve seen of umpiring in any game I’ve ever been a part of in baseball, and I think it was pathetic.”
He said he wasn’t given an explanation as to why the call was overturned.
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“I wasn’t given an explanation because, truthfully, there’s no explanation to give on that play,” Baldelli added via MLB.com. “That was probably one of the most chickens–t things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.”
Sanchez said he thought he left a path.
“He slid towards me. I’m just tagging him. I had the ball first. I think the line was open for him to slide to the side. He didn’t. It was a clean play,” Sanchez said.
Merrifield talked about what he was thinking as he headed for home.
“I had a feeling there was going to be a play at the plate,” he said. “Put my head down first couple steps then looked up and tried to figure out how to get into home plate and saw Gary straddling home plate, so tried to just slide into him, straight into him best I could. I know what the rule is, it was just a matter of if they were going to call it.”
According to the Toronto Sun, crew chief Alan Porter said Sanchez was in violation of the “home-plate collision rule.”
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With the win, the Blue Jays maintained a two-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card standings. The Twins’ lead over the Cleveland Guardians in the American League Central fell to one game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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