BOSTON -- Umpire Joe West seldom blends into the background. Sure enough, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, West, the home plate umpire, found himself front-and-center.
The Red Sox, who struck out 17 times, took issue with West's balls and strikes calls, time and again.
David Ortiz, who habitually complains about balls and strikes, had several exchanges with West. That wasn't unusual, but so did Jacoby Ellsbury, normally among the most mild-mannered of players.
Naturally, the Red Sox were mostly diplomatic in assessing West's work after the game.
"From our vantage point (in the dugout),'' said manager John Farrell, "you couldn't tell (if the strike zone was consistent). You can tell up and down, but I don't know if every pitch (was correct). I can't say there's not going to be pitches missed; that's the human part of this game. So I can't say that was the reason (we lost).''
Asked if the Red Sox were working against a "generous'' strike zone with Anibal Sanchez on the mound, outfielder Shane Victorino dismissed the query.
"Next...'' said Victorino, turning away from the question.
Later, Victorino addressed the topic of umpiring more fully.
"It is what it is,'' said Victorino. "We're going to have our thoughts. It's one of those things. He's the one behind the plate. He's controlling the game. It's his game. You feel like (you get a bad call) and sometimes you're wrong. A couple of pitches, I know I was wrong. I asked him and thought a pitch wasn't a strike and I went back and looked at it and I was wrong.
"It's just part of the game. In the heat of the moment, you're going to think differently until you can go back and look at it (on video). Both sides were in discussion. It's part of the game. You're all heated.''
Victorino then cut off further discussion on the topic of umpires, noting: "I'm not a rookie.''
Translation: Victorino wasn't about to be goaded into bad-mouthing the umpiring crew in Game 1 of what could be a seven-game series.
Starter Jon Lester, who was on the other side, took issue with West in the first inning. Lester thought West missed a 2-and-2 pitch to Victor Martinez, and after the inning, walked to the plate to talk to West.
"From what I heard,'' said Lester, "he was 'miked' (by Fox) and I got the typical Joe West answer. I just wanted to get some information and he gave it to me, like I said, in his typical way.''
West could be heard on the telecast admonishing Lester for coming to talk to him and accused him of attempting to show him up.
But after that, Lester didn't seem to have many issues with West's strike zone -- at least not while Lester was on the mound.
"For me, I don't feel like there were many pitches in question,'' said Lester. "You'd have to ask our hitters from that side. I can't really comment for our hitters on that, but for me, I felt like there was maybe one or two (that were missed). It was just kind of your typical night. You're going to have a few here and there that you throw pretty well that are just off or just down or whatever.
"I thought was he was fine for me.''