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If the Twins lose out on the AL Central by a game, it’ll be impossible for Minnesota fans to not immediately turn to the events of Aug. 7. The White Sox thumped the Rangers and the Guardians blanked the Astros while the Twins lost to the Blue Jays in one of the most mind-melting ways.
The Buster Posey Rule is still alive and well, and it’s the reason why the Blue Jays were awarded what turned out to be the decisive run.
With the game tied at 2 in the 10th inning, new Blue Jay Whit Merrifield tried tagging up on former Charlotte Knight Tim Beckham, but Beckham made a strong, on-target throw that beat Merrifield to the plate, and Gary Sánchez dropped his knee and mitt in front of Merrifield to prevent him from getting to the plate.
It looked like the game would remain tied, but the Blue Jays challenged the play on the basis that Sanchez failed to give Merrifield a clear path to the plate while he didn’t have the ball, and the review center in New York agreed with him.
The outcome even surprised the Toronto crew, which considered the challenge a bit of a Hail Mary after realizing that they couldn’t possibly be challenging the out/safe call.
The Minnesota broadcast provided the best angle of Sánchez’s actions as the throw came in.
The interpretation of the rule seems to hinge on the idea that Sánchez set up in front of the plate well before the throw got to him, so Merrifield never had a clear path even if the throw required Sánchez to catch the ball across his body. Had Sanchez set up on the first-base side of the plate as the throw came in, then took two steps into Merrifield’s path to receive it, they’d probably have given him the benefit of the doubt.
“I thought it was going to be overturned and I thought it should be overturned,” Merrifield said. “Obviously, it’s a big point in the game, and you don’t want it to come down to a rules decision, but the rules are there for a reason. A while ago, I could have run him over and tried to free the ball, but you can’t do that anymore. He’s got to give me a lane to slide in. I didn’t think I had one. Like I said, I think they made the right call.”
Merrifield’s mind was buzzing as he came down the line, too. Earlier in the series, he’d seen how Sánchez sets up to receive a throw at home. He knew that might drag Sánchez into his lane, so he took a straight shot, sliding feet-first. After the win, interim manager John Schneider praised his new player for “sliding correctly.”
Rocco Baldelli, as you can imagine, also didn’t like seeing the game come down to a rules decision, and he exploded with expletives after the game.
The thing is, the Twins still had a real chance to win the game. They came out of the top of the 10th having held the Blue Jays to a run, which is usually good enough to live enough inning. They couldn’t get their own Manfred Man home, with Jose Miranda lining out to center, followed by a pair of groundouts. The unlikely invocation of the rule may be why they lost, but it isn’t why they failed to win.
At any rate, instead of leading the division by two games, the Twins only hold a one-game edge over the Guardians, with the White Sox two back. Let’s fold in the corner of this page for later revisiting.
The Twins delivered bad news before the game, as Alex Kiriloff’s right wrist has cost him yet another season. The Twins’ first-round pick from 2016 had season-ending surgery for the second consecutive year, and this one is a more radical procedure.
Kirilloff, injured while sliding in a game in May 2021 and never completely healthy since, will undergo ulnar-shortening surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles, a procedure that ends his second season prematurely, just as his first was ended by the same injury. Dr. Steven Shin, who has also operated on athletes such as Stephen Curry, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, will shave a few millimeters of bone out of Kirilloff’s wrist, an attempt to relieve the bone-on-bone pain where the protective cartilage was irreparably damaged more than a year ago.
It’s a relatively rare procedure for a professional athlete, and therefore a potentially risky one. But it has become clear this season that when Kirilloff’s wrist flares up, he is a far less productive hitter.
At his height, Kiriloff was a top-20 prospect, but he’s hit just .251/.295/.398 over 104 games the past two seasons.
Minnesota also announced that Bailey Ober and Trevor Larnach are going to be out until September, as they deal with groin and core muscle strains.
Unless you count old friend Ian Hamilton, the Cleveland Guardians didn’t make any notable acquisitions at the trade deadline. Instead, they seem to be pursuing the path of addition by subtraction, as they designated Franmil Reyes for assignment and released Bobby Bradley over the weekend.
Reyes, who entered the season as Cleveland’s cleanup hitter, hit just .213/.254/.350 with 104 strikeouts to 14 walks over 70 games this year. He’d hit 37 and 30 homers in the last two 162-game seasons, but Terry Francona offered a blunt assessment of what changed.
“It’s difficult when you know a guy can get hot and carry a team,” said manager Terry Francona when asked to evaluate Reyes’ season. “His swing and miss comes with the territory. But he wasn’t getting to the fastball and he was hitting the hanging breaking ball for a single and an occasional home run. He just wasn’t getting to pitches that he used to.”
When asked if the Guardians ever talked about letting the 270-pound Reyes play his way out of his slump so he could produce like he had over his last two full seasons (2020 and 2021), Francona said, “I would say yes, but there is an exception. Sometimes when you see different like body-wise. You see things different and you’re not sure he’s going to do it. So there is some hesitancy there when you see things like that.”
As for Bradley, he looked like a potential solution at first base over various points of his ascension through the minor leagues, but the third-round pick from 2014 hit just .199/.278/.414 over parts of three seasons.
Given the surprising success of their bullpen, it was surprising that the Detroit Tigers let the trade deadline pass while moving just one reliever. They sent Michael Fulmer to the Twins before he hit free agency (corrected), but unlike the Baltimore Orioles, who moved their All-Star closer Jorge Lopez to the Twins, Al Avila couldn’t find a return that could capitalize on Joe Jimenez’s impressive peripherals, Andrew Chafin’s left-handedness or Gregory Soto’s All-Star appearance.
López blew a save in his first outing for Minnesota, as his pedestrian July carried into the first week of August, so the Orioles could be on track to reap the benefits of selling high.
On Sunday, Soto entered the ninth inning of a scoreless game with the Rays and gave up five runs over two-thirds of an inning, issuing three walks on top of two hits and throwing just 12 of 26 pitches for strikes. All five of his baserunners came around to score, plus two more on Jason Foley’s tab, and that’s how the Tigers lost 7-0 when the game was 0-0 through eight.
Kauffman Stadium isn’t known for adversarial crowds, especially when they’re fighting to stay out of last place. I’ve gone to eight or so White Sox-Royals games over the years, most of them during the lows of the David Glass Era, and I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed a bad time as an opposing fan.
So it was weird seeing Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran going at it with some fans in center field as he misplayed two balls during an eventful seventh inning on Sunday.
After the game, Duran said that fans in the outfield were throwing bottle caps at him during the sixth inning. In the heat of a miserable inning, the treatment got to him.
“They just happened to be throwing little bottle caps at me and stuff so I was just telling them to stop throwing it,” Duran said (via the NESN postgame show). “Then one of the ushers came over and just told them to stop.”
But one wonders if there are professional pressures coming into play as well. He gave up the inside-the-park grand slam to the Blue Jays a couple weeks ago, and now he lost a safety net with the Red Sox DFAing Jackie Bradley Jr. over the weekend. If the Kauffman crowd is getting to him, it’s not a great sign for handling further misadventures at home.