Frustrated Ross: Those pitches weren't strikes

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Frustrated Ross: Those pitches weren't strikes

BOSTON With two outs in the ninth and the tying and winning runs on base, Cody Ross struck out to end the Red Sox' 1-0 loss to the Rays Monday.

Of the five pitches Ross saw, he didnt swing at any of them. Perhaps that was because none of them were strikes at least according to video replays.

Home plate umpire Larry Vanover called all five offerings from Rays closer Fernando Rodney 97- and 98-mph fastballs strikes.

I didnt get to see it on video, manager Bobby Valentine said. If Codys not swinging at fastballs, I got to think that theyre not strikes, though.

Ross and Vanover exchanged thoughts, as Ross spiked his helmet on the plate.

Obviously, we disagreed. It happens, Ross said. He thought they were all strikes and I thought they were all balls. Thats just the way it goes sometimes. I havent had a chance to go look at the replay yet. I have no idea. Do you know?

Told that the pitches all looked like balls, Ross, who was 2-for-3, accounting for half the Sox hits in the game, replied:

Well, there you go. Its tough because Im up there battling my butt off, trying to get something going right there in a late situation. Its unacceptable. Im battling. Im bearing down, our whole teams bearing down, and everybody on the field should be bearing down.

Weve been playing this game for so long that you recognize pitches early and you see them out of the hand and you say thats a ball, and it crosses wherever and its called a strike. So Im taught, or Ive taught myself over the years, to take those pitches and not expand my strike zone. Make the pitcher make a mistake. Rodney didnt make a mistake. So, as soon as it comes out of his hand Im in shut-down mode. Im saying, No, thats a ball. The umpire calls Strike. All right, next one, Strike. I see ball, strike. So what are you going to do? Just move on and get them tomorrow.

But that does not diminish his frustration.

Its tough, Ross said. Thats the crazy thing about this game. If Im going up there and striking out every at-bat, Im going to get benched. But its not that way with the umpires. They can make bad calls all day and theyre not going to be held accountable for it. So, its tough. It's such a tough situation. And believe me, Ive umpired before. It's tough. Its hard. But at this level . . . I dont know what to say.

His teammates, though, did.

As far as the end of the game goes, those pitches that were called on Cody, thats just not right, said Adrian Gonzalez. Theyre in the left-handed hitters box and the way I see it is, we missed the playoffs by one game last year, and if he walks there, like he should have, or he swings and gets a hit, we end up winning today, that could make the difference. So those three pitches to Cody, that shouldnt happen.

What do you say to a teammate whos just ended a game in such ignominious fashion?

You cant say anything, Gonzalez said. You look at the video, you look at the over-the-top view and those pitches are in the left-handed batters box and theyre not even close. They dont start close and they dont end close. So its unfortunate for Cody to have to end the game like that.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

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Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.