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Updated: May 19th, 2010 10:02pm
Mackey: Ron Gardenhire's interesting history with Wednesday's umpires

Mackey: Ron Gardenhire's interesting history with Wednesday's umpires

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

The Twins' 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night had very little to do with umpiring, and a lot to do with how well Clay Buchholz pitched. Buchholz allowed only two runs in 8+ innings while striking out seven.

But it's worth mentioning that the umpire crew at Fenway Park was... well... not sharp. And manager Ron Gardenhire, perhaps not surprisingly, has an interesting history with three of the crew members.

- Home plate umpire Mike Winters had one of the most inconsistent strike zones the Twins will run into all season. Jim Thome was actually called out on a pitch that crossed the plate at his shins in the eighth inning. In the fourth inning, Winters froze momentarily when a Scott Baker two-strike fastball painted the outer half of the plate against Kevin Youkilis.

Morneau and Jason Kubel were also victims of phantom backward K's, unless the FSN strike zone tracker was playing tricks.

Morneau and Thome both shared words with Winters after questionable called third strikes. It remains to be seen if their protests to Winters were more successful than Matt Kemp's from last June, or Milton Bradley's from September of 2007.

Or Gardenhire's from June of 2007, although Gardenhire was probably wrong in that particular instance.

- In the third inning, Nick Punto was incorrectly called out by first base umpire Brian Runge on a pick-off play to end the inning. Punto just tilted his head and smiled.

Runge also made a questionable call at first base late in the game after Brendan Harris backhanded a ball at shortstop and fired to Justin Morneau, but the weather was cold and wet, so we'll empathize on that one just once.

Does Runge's name ring a bell? He's the umpire that refused to grant time to Harris at Miller Park in 2008. With the Twins trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Harris faced an 0-2 count against Brewers reliever Guillermo Mota. Harris had called time, but Mota was ready to pitch before Harris stepped back in the box. With one foot out of the batters box and his head bent forward -- Harris wasn't even looking at Mota -- he asked for time again so he could set himself in the box.

Runge said no, and Mota quick-pitched Harris, striking him out. Gardenhire came out to argue, and he was eventually tossed from the game.

Patrick Reusse's column from that night has some fun quotes from Gardenhire in regards to Runge:

"I was in shock; I honestly couldn't believe what I saw," the manager said. "For one thing, my guy's got his head right next to home plate, and the ball goes right by him.

"This speed-up stuff, that's all good and fine, but if he gets hit in the head when he's not looking, what are we going to do then?

"There has to be a little common sense sometimes. I understand they're forced to do these things. But that's wrong, just wrong.

"My guy's looking down, not even looking at the pitcher and ball goes right by him. You tell me that's right? That's embarrassing.

"And what I was told there was, 'Call the league.' That's a great statement. My guy's down on the ground, he got hit in the head. Call the league."

Coincidentally, Runge is scheduled to be the home plate umpire on Thursday night.

- In the fourth inning, David Ortiz hit a towering fly ball to left center that bounced high in the air off the top of the Green Monster. Ortiz rumbled into third base with a triple, but after an official review, the umpires correctly ruled it a home run.

Third base umpire Jerry Layne, who may or may not have been keeping an eye on Ortiz' fly ball, was the crew chief during a contest last May at the Metrodome between the Twins and Red Sox when both starting catchers, Mike Redmond and Jason Varitek, and both managers, Gardenhire and Terry Francona, were thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor.

Tichenor was apparently attempting his best Leslie Nielsen impression.

"Major League Baseball will review the report that Todd puts together," Layne said after the game. "I don't know what was said. I just know it was very emotional at the moment... The umpire did his job."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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