Twins falter at the plate

Published 2:26 am Thursday, July 25, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A potential infield fly that wasn’t helped cost the Minnesota Twins a chance to sweep the Los Angeles Angels.

Jered Weaver outpitched Mike Pelfrey with eight innings of two-hit ball and Albert Pujols drove in the only run, sending the Twins to a 1-0 loss on Wednesday.

However, it wasn’t as simple as that.

Email newsletter signup

Angels closer Ernesto Frieri walked Clete Thomas to open the ninth, then hit Doug Bernier with an 0-2 pitch before Justin Morneau came up and hit a not-too-high popup between the mound and first base. Frieri let it drop — coaxed by shortstop Erick Aybar — and started a double play by throwing to first.

Bernier ended up in a rundown and was tagged out by first baseman Mark Trumbo as Thomas advanced to third. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out and complained to plate umpire Mike Muchlinski that is should have been ruled an infield fly, which would have made Morneau an automatic out.

“It was a judgment call,” Gardenhire said. “He said the pitcher wasn’t camped under the ball. But there was a reason why he wasn’t camped underneath it — because he was going to let it fall. The rule states that it has to be 20 feet in the air. I didn’t take my tape measure out, but I’m guessing it might have been 22 feet in the air. It could have been called, but it was not the obvious call. And there was mass confusion on the basepaths after that.”

Third base ump and crew chief Ted Barrett said: “For an infield fly, we look to see if the ball has arc, if the fielder can catch it with ordinary effort, and if the fielder gets comfortably underneath. That one definitely had enough arc, but the fielder has to get comfortably underneath the ball to catch it. That’s the criteria that wasn’t met.”

Frieri ended up with his 25th save in 27 chances, less than 24 hours after giving up five runs including a grand slam by Chris Herrmann in the 10th inning of the Angels’ 10-3 loss. The right-hander ended it by striking out Herrmann with runners at the corners after a walk to Ryan Doumit.

“That’s why I like to be a reliever. I don’t like to wait like five days to pitch,” Frieri said. “I want to pitch every day. I like to get the chance the next day. If I didn’t do good today, I just want my (manager) to give me another chance to prove myself.”

Pelfrey (4-8) pitched six innings and allowed five hits.

“He really deserved to win that game today, but we didn’t score any runs for him,” Morneau said. “These last few starts he’s really been throwing the ball well after coming off the DL. Today he had a little more velocity. I think that maybe that little bit of rest was what he needed. It’s something he can build on and get some confidence out of that.”

Pelfrey,who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with Minnesota in December after spending his first seven seasons with the Mets, is 1-5 with a 4.64 ERA in his last 12 starts. The right-hander’s only victory during that stretch was July 6, when he pitched six innings of 3-hit ball in a 6-0 win at Toronto.

“Those first two months were brutal months,” said Pelfrey, who underwent Tommy John surgery on May 1, 2012. “But I feel like I’m back to what I used to be. So it’s exciting for me. And hopefully I’ll continue to get better. My fastball was really good today. The velocity was there and the movement was there. I was locating on both sides of the plate. If you go in to righties, then it opens it up to go away.”

Weaver (5-5) struck out nine and walked one in his first home start against the Twins since his no-hitter on May 2, 2012. The three-time All-Star right-hander retired 19 consecutive batters during one stretch — just four days after teammate C.J. Wilson set down 18 in a row during his 2-0 win against Oakland.

“He was the No. 1 they needed him to be,” Morneau said. “We came in here winning the first two, and he beat us. We got his pitch count up a little bit early, but he settled in like most of the number ones do. He changed speeds really well and got ahead in the count. And when he works ahead, he makes that off-speed stuff more effective.”

Weaver improved to 8-2 lifetime against the Twins with a 3.28 ERA. Bernier, a 33-year-old rookie who got his first major league hit and RBI on Monday, singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the first. The Twins didn’t get another runner until Doumit walked on four pitches with two out in the seventh, and rookie Aaron Hicks singled with two out in the eighth.

“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Gardenhire said. “Weaver was really good, obviously, and that’s stating the obvious. He kept us off-balance, changed speeds, moved the ball in and out and used his breaking ball very effectively. That made it really tough on us. Pelfrey threw the ball well for us, only giving up one. Normally when you hold a team to that, you have a chance to win.”

Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton missed his third straight game because of right ankle stiffness. Center fielder Mike Trout was 0 for 4, ending his career-best hitting streak at 15 games.

NOTES: With C Joe Mauer back in Minnesota spending quality time with wife Maddie and newborn twin daughters Emily and Maren, the Twins recalled Drew Butera from Triple-A Rochester after placing Mauer on the paternity list. Butera, who spent the previous three years as Mauer’s backup, had 79 at-bats with the Red Wings after recovering from a broken left hand. … Former Minnesota SS and current TV analyst Roy Smalley recalled Wednesday that when he played for the club, owner Calvin Griffith offered a $10,000 bonus to any Twins player whose wife gave birth to twins. Smalley’s twin daughters Catherine and Laura-Leigh were born in 1984, just before he began his third spring training with the Yankees. … Pelfrey is 3-1 in four career starts against the Angels, including a 9-6 decision over Weaver on June 16, 2008 in his only other appearance at the “Big A.”