MINNEAPOLIS — Plenty went wrong in the Washington Nationals’ 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins yesterday. Starter Mike Bacsik battled location issues and was roughed up early. The Nationals wasted opportunities to do the same to Twins starter Boof Bonser. And the top third of their lineup was a combined 1-for-15.
But by the end of the afternoon, it was hard not to focus on the one controversial play in the first inning that set the tone for the rest of the day and perhaps cost Washington a chance at a series sweep before 31,035 at the Metrodome.
The play — a towering, two-run homer by Dmitri Young down the right-field line that was overturned by the four-man umpiring crew — caused a stir in the Nationals’ dugout during the game and in the clubhouse afterward.
“For 30 seconds, you think you have a two-run lead,” Bacsik said.
But that’s as long as it lasted. Young’s moonshot off Bonser carried high over the makeshift Metrodome foul pole and landed about four or five rows into the upper deck. First-base umpire Ron Kulpa, the man with the best angle of the play, immediately ruled it a home run, and Young (who never left the batter’s box as he watched the ball fly) trotted around the bases believing he had given the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, though, came jogging out of the dugout and asked the umpiring crew to confer for a consensus opinion. The men in blue did just that and after a lengthy discussion reversed the call.
Television replays were inconclusive.
“The majority of us saw it foul, and the key on that is just getting the play right,” crew chief Dale Scott (the second-base umpire) told a pool reporter. “Obviously, Ron had it fair, but if we had it definitely foul, we’re going to flip it.”
That brought Manny Acta out onto the field to argue, but after being informed that two of Kulpa’s mates disagreed, the Nationals manager didn’t put up much of a fight.
“The first-base umpire told me that the home plate umpire and the third-base umpire, they overruled him and told him the ball was foul,” Acta said. “Obviously, you want the two runs. But it has happened before. I don’t think Dmitri helped a lot, either. He just stood there at the plate. Whoever saw the play probably thought he himself thought the ball was foul.”
Young said he didn’t run because he knew it would either be a ruled a home run or a foul ball. Once back in the box, he wound up lining out to first to end the inning.
“That’s a tough call for umpires,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it was overturned, but I don’t fault umpires on that, because that’s a tough judgment.”
The game quickly deteriorated for the Nationals from there. Bacsik (1-3) was roughed up for four runs and nine hits in the first three innings, with three of those runs coming in the first.
The left-hander, who burst onto the scene a month ago after getting called up from Class AAA Columbus, has begun to show signs of faltering. He has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) and 21 baserunners over his last 131/3 innings as opposing hitters start to learn a little more about him.
“They’ve got video on me now, so they have an idea how I throw,” he said. “Obviously, today’s a good example of it because they really didn’t pull off of any balls. I can’t remember too many hits being pull base hits. They were pretty much up the middle or mostly opposite field.”