NEW YORK — They’ve somehow lost 21 times in their past 23 games in Yankee Stadium, a miserable seven-year stretch which you might expect to make a team resigned or blasé about each additional one.
You’d be mistaken.
The Twins were angry, indignant and other more colorful emotions over Monday’s 6-5, 10-inning defeat to the Yankees, and especially Aaron Judge‘s dramatic game-tying home run off Alex Colome in the eighth inning. Noted fountain of serenity Rocco Baldelli even got ejected from the game, a makeup of a rainout three weeks ago.
“It’s tough to swallow,” the manager fumed after Gary Sanchez lined a one-out single into the left-field corner in the 10th inning, scoring courtesy runner Gleyber Torres from second base with the winning run. “We’re battling … out there, but things got tight, and we thought that inning should have been over.”
The “things” that got tight was mostly umpire Jeff Nelson’s strike zone, Baldelli meant. Tyler Duffey‘s leadoff walk to pinch hitter Anthony Rizzo, and especially a two-out walk to Brent Gardner that brought Judge to the plate, galled the manager so much, he let Nelson know it as he brought in Colome.
“I told Jeff that there were some pitches that looked like strikes to me,” said Baldelli, ejected for the second time this year. “Duffey made some good pitches. Obviously some were close and we didn’t get the calls, that’s for sure. Then we give up a three-run homer. I mean, it doesn’t play out any more frustrating than that.”
Duffey glared at Nelson as he walked off the field, too, because while he conceded he shouldn’t have put himself in that position, he believes he struck out Gardner with a 3-2 curveball, up and in.
“You hit the spot you were trying to hit and the umpire just flat-out misses it. It seems to happen a lot in this stadium,” Duffey said. “I know know if they’re afraid to punch people out in Yankee Stadium. … I executed a pitch and ended up walking a guy and we end up losing.”
Making it worse was the fact that the Twins owned a 5-0 lead only 11 batters into the game, thanks to home runs by Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton off Luis Gil, a former Twins prospect. But as is so often the case in New York, things started to crumble for the Twins slowly and then all at once.
DJ LeMahieu drove in a run off Kyle Barraclough with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Joey Gallo, who had bunted to break up the Twins’ no-hitter in the fifth inning, chipped away with a home run off Duffey in the seventh. Then came the disputed walks by Duffey in the eighth, followed by Colome’s seventh blown save of the season.
After throwing three pitches below the strike zone to Judge, 0-for-5 in their meetings when Colome wasn’t a Twin, the erstwhile closer left a cutter letter-high in the middle of the plate. It landed just to the right of the Yankees’ bullpen, setting off a familiar celebration in the stadium.
The righthander, his streak of six consecutive successful saves snapped, recovered to strike out the next four hitters, sending the game to extra innings, but the eventual outcome felt inescapable.
“Honestly? It would have been very nice to win this ballgame. We wanted to win this ballgame,” Baldelli said. “There was more that went into it than just this being just a normal ballgame. The circumstances were not easy.”