MINNEAPOLIS — Cavan Biggio hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning and Whit Merrifield scored on an overturned call to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday and split the four-game series.
Merrifield was originally called out at the plate, but the call was reversed after Twins catcher Gary Sanchez was deemed to have interfered with Merrifield.
“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 what just played out,” said Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli, who was ejected for arguing the call, the eighth time in his career he was thrown out of a game and third this season.
Replay officials ruled Sanchez did not establish a clear lane for Merrifield, whose right foot collided with Sanchez’s left leg as he slid into home plate. The out would have ended the inning.
“I had a feeling there was going to be a play at the plate,” Merrifield 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.”
Sanchez argued that he did leave a path.
“He slid towards me. I’m just tagging him," Sanchez said. “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.”
Toronto remained two games ahead of Tampa Bay for the top wild card in the American League. Minnesota's lead in the AL Central shrank to one game after a win by Cleveland.
After scoring two early runs, the Blue Jays stifled a late Twins' comeback. Jose Miranda drove in Minnesota's first run, an RBI single in the eighth inning, for his fourth consecutive game with at least one RBI. Luis Arraez tied the game in the ninth with an RBI single.
Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman pitched six scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out five. He has now thrown 14 scoreless innings over his last two starts.
“He was lights out,” Toronto manager John Schneider said.
After blowing the save opportunity in the ninth inning, Jordan Romano (4-3) closed out the Twins in the 10th with a 1-2-3 inning.
Minnesota starter Chris Archer pitched five innings and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out four. It was only the fourth time this season that Archer lasted five innings in a start.
Back-to-back hits in the second and third innings produced early runs for Toronto. Teoscar Hernandez singled to open the second inning and scored on a double by Bo Bichette. Biggio doubled to start the third inning and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drove him in with an RBI single.
Caleb Thielbar (2-1) pitched the 10th for the Twins and gave up the Biggio sac fly.
Vladamir Guerrero Jr. went 1 for 4 to extend his career-high hitting streak to 18 games. It's the longest active hitting streak in Major League Baseball.
Blue Jays: LHP Tim Mayza was placed on the 15-day injured list with a dislocated right shoulder. Mayza was removed from Saturday's game with the injury after attempting to make a tag on a play at home plate and awkwardly landing on his shoulder. RHP Trent Thornton was recalled from Triple-A to replace Mayza.
Twins: RHP Emilio Pagán is day to day with what the team called a right lat cramp. Pagán left Sunday's game in the sixth inning with the injury ... Minnesota is “hopeful” for a September return for RHP Kenta Maeda, Baldelli said. Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2021.
Blue Jays: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 4.86 ERA) takes the mound Monday in the opener of a three-game series in Baltimore against the Orioles. Kikuchi allowed two runs over four innings in his most recent start, against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Twins: Minnesota has Monday off before a starting a two-game interleague series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Tuesday.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
Paul Hodowanic, The Canadian Press