DETROIT -- Jim Leyland might not have believed it himself had he not seen Brayan Villarreal with the ball in his glove and his foot on home plate as Justin Morneau slid home safely in the sixth inning of the Tigers' 10-4 loss to the Twins in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday.
He wasn't angry, he emphasized, but reserved the right to be a little incredulous.
It happened after Villarreal struck out Eduardo Escobar with the bases loaded for the first out of the sixth inning. Escobar swung and missed at a slider in the dirt, but the ball rolled away from catcher Gerald Laird and headed toward the Twins' on-deck circle.
Laird pounced on the ball as Villarreal bolted toward the plate. They did their jobs quickly enough that they had plenty of time to retire Morneau as he broke from third base.
Villarreal took Laird's throw before Morneau even began his slide. It looked fine until Villarreal got the rules mixed up.
"I felt bad for the kid," Leyland said. "When he saw the guy run, he thought that became a [forceout], when actually the guy [at the plate] can't run [on a dropped third strike] when first base is occupied with less than two outs. He just made a mental mistake."
Thus, while Villarreal stood on the plate with the ball in his glove, Morneau slid in. Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion paused for a second to make sure Morneau touched the plate, then called him safe to Villarreal's surprise.