Cuddyer leaves it all on the line
Hard-nosed play at plate doesn't work in Twins' favor
CHICAGO -- Michael Cuddyer ran into an old buddy. It's too bad he couldn't run harder.
Cuddyer was unable to knock the ball loose from ex-Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski's glove on a play at the plate in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's 1-0 do-or-die loss to the White Sox in the one-game American League Central tiebreaker at U.S. Cellular Field. It was Minnesota's lone scoring threat.
Cuddyer doubled off dominating White Sox starter John Danks to lead off the fifth, moving to third on a Delmon Young flyout. Then, Brendan Harris hit a mid-range fly ball to center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer two-hopped a throw to Pierzynski, who snared it on a short bounce. The catcher held out his left arm, and he had a split second to brace for the Cuddyer collision.
"I knew the only play I was going to have, if it was a good throw, was to run him over," said Cuddyer, who was teammates with Pierzynski from 2001-03. "Then, once I saw that arm get extended, that's what I went for. I went for his arm, just to try and drive the ball loose."
A photo showed that the ball nearly popped out of the catcher's mitt, as Cuddyer leaned over Pierzynski's arm and knocked his mask off, but the ball never jarred loose.
"Unfortunately, the ball was stuck," said Cuddyer, who gathered that by conversing with his former teammate later in the game. "[Pierzynski] said he didn't even feel it in his glove. He didn't feel the ball in his glove or anything after the hit. That just goes to show it kind of just stuck there."
The heart-on-his-sleeve Pierzynski defiantly showed the ball for home-plate umpire Tim McClelland and the anxious crowd to see.
"It was bang-bang at the plate," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Cuddy saw A.J. reaching for the ball with his glove, and he was trying to go for the glove and the arm. A.J. just barely held on, but he did hold on. He made sure he showed us, too, and he always does."
Add that play to Pierzynski's lore. It's up there with his memorable no-catch third-strike run to first base while batting against the Angels in the 2005 American League Championship Series.
"A.J. is known as a hard-nosed gamer and really proved that tonight," Danks said. "I still don't know how he held onto the ball. It looked like he bear-hugged Cuddyer there at the plate. Great play."
Twins catcher Joe Mauer could appreciate the play from both sides.
"That's guys playing the game hard," he said. "That's baseball at its best right there."
In April, Cuddyer dislocated his right index finger sliding into third base. He spent another stint on the disabled list with a left index finger injury this season. Still, he wasn't holding anything back.
"In that situation, the game is like that, you don't worry about your body," Cuddyer said. "You just play hard, and that's what I tried to do."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.