The Kansas City Royals made two critical mental mistakes against the Minnesota Twins in the late innings Sunday, and the brain lock suffered by Mike Moustakas for the game's final out was one of the biggest puzzlers ever.
With his team trailing by a run with two outs in the ninth, Moustakas chose to stand in the batter's box after hitting a pop-up, rather than running to first base, and got in the way of Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki trying to catch it. Even though the ball fell to the ground in foul territory after Suzuki bumped into the batter, home-plate umpire Laz Diaz called Moustakas out for interference because he DIDN'T GET OUT OF THE WAY.
Moustakas had a look on his face that said, "What is baseball?" Royals manager Ned Yost came out and appeared to argue, but what he really said was, "I'm not with them."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire explains, via the Associated Press, all anyone needs to know about the rule:
“That’s always on the hitter,” Gardenhire said. “That’s not going to be on the defender. He has a right to catch the ball.”
Regardless of the rulebook, anytime a batter hits a ball that looks like it might possibly land in the field of play, what should he do? He should run to first base, if not further. It's the oldest unwritten rule in the imaginary baseball book, and it's the best rule: When in doubt, run it out. Always. Run. It. Out.
Besides, look at how the wind took the ball, and how close it came to landing in fair territory. If it's fair, Moustakas might have been able to reach second base as the potential tying run. Of course, Suzuki probably catches the ball if he doesn't stumble over the Moose in the batter's box. But maybe he doesn't catch it. It appeared to be a tricky play.
What happened with right-hander Wade Davis the inning before wasn't any less embarrassing. And it was just as costly, if not more.
With one out and the Royals leading by a run, the Twins loaded the bases. Davis hung a 1-2 breaking pitch to Chad Herrmann, who tapped softly to the mound. Needing only to complete a short throw home for a force play that would have ended the inning, Davis instead misfired for an error. The tying run scored, and when Davis paused to shout into his glove at himself, another run came in. He was late with the tag.
“I got frustrated and made a mental mistake by not being there,” Davis said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Unacceptable, but at least it's been seen before: A player getting down on himself and forgetting to cover a base. Inexcusable, but it happens. Twins fans high-fived each other at Target Field: "Yes!" they shouted. "We're playing the Royals!"
In the case of Moustakas, it's hard to recall another batter standing still after hitting a pop up over his own head. Really, the Royals should have walked off the field right there and forfeited. That should be in the unwritten rules somewhere, too. Kansas City dropped to 4-7.
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