Questionable umpiring leaves Sox with bad taste


Questionable umpiring leaves Sox with bad taste

BOSTON On the verge of falling to 1-5 on the six-game homestand, 1-6 in their last seven, 14-19, and two games under .500 for the first time since May 19, the frustration from the Red Sox dugout was evident in the home half of the ninth inning Sunday afternoon, after the Nationals took a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning.

In the top of the inning, Alfredo Aceves had walked pinch-hitter Bryce Harper with one out, then gave up a two-out double to Nats No. 9 hitter Roger Bernardina on a 2-2 fastball that scored Harper.

With one out in the bottom of the inning and Mike Aviles on first base representing the tying run, Scott Podsednik struck out, bringing Dustin Pedroia to the plate.

Entering the at-bat Pedroia was just 3 for his last 23 since returning to the lineup Tuesday after sitting out six games with a thumb injury.

With a count of 1-2, Pedroia fouled off a 94-mph fastball from Nationals closer Tyler Clippard. With that, manager Bobby Valentine emerged from the Sox dugout, jawing at home plate umpire Al Porter the whole way.

Arguing balls and strikes earned Valentine an immediate ejection, his second of the season.

But, it wasnt just that pitch and it wasnt just one pitch that had Valentine upset. It was the cumulative effect of the series.

"Alfredo struck the guy out on a pitch that the whole ball is on the plate and he calls it a ball, Valentine said. Then he hits an RBI (double).

Valentine was referring to the 1-2 pitch from Aceves to the left-handed hitting Bernardina. According to MLB.coms Gameday View graphics, Valentine is right. The fourth pitch to Bernardina was within the strike zone, making it the third strike of the at-bat, and ending the inning.

It was a fastball set up away and caught it on the inside corner, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. From what I saw it was a pretty good pitch.

Im not going to complain, Aceves said. What do you think of the umpires? I cant complain. Its been like that for years.

But on the pitch that was called a ball for a 2-2 count?

He could have called it a strike, yeah, Aceves said. I missed the spot, but like Ive been saying, theyre tough hitters and we have to make our pitches. Unfortunately he didnt call it a strike, and like I said, its been that way for 10 years or more than that. Weve got to come back and play against the Marlins and win that series.

But, with calls like that, it can force a pitcher and catcher to re-examine their strike zone.

Its tough, Saltalamacchia said. I felt like early in the game we got some pitches that kind of went our way and then later on in the game, I think Ace made a great pitch, 2-2, that from what I understand, what I saw, was a strike. But nobodys perfect and we understand that. All we ask is just a better look at everything.

But, he knows as a catcher, complaining doesnt always do any good.

I dont think it does, he said. When I argue, its protecting the pitcher. I want him to get every pitch that he can. Ace is battling. He did a great job, made a great pitch 2-2 that I felt got us out of that inning, and had a chance to win the game. When it comes down to it, thats what we want to do, we want to win. Were not asking them to expand the strike zone. Were not asking them to completely tighten it up. We just want it to be equal on both sides and just kind of tighten up and get a better look at every pitch.

And when the hitters are uncertain, it can take away confidence. The third pitch to Pedroia, a called strike making the count 1-2 was out of the strike zone according to MLB.coms graphics.

You have to talk to the hitters, Valentine said. The game is simple: Throw it over the plate, call it a strike. Don't throw it over the plate, call it a ball. It's simple. That's all. That's all anybody asks. I know it's been going on for 100 years. I'm not the first one to say it. But this was a pretty lousy series.

Adrian Gonzalez went 2-for-13 in the series, with a home run and a double. Both hits came in Fridays game. On Sunday he went 0-for-4, ending three innings, leaving four runners on base.

Asked his thoughts on the umpiring, Gonzalez replied:

Theyve been great all year. Thats all Ive got to say. And he walked out of the clubhouse.

Pedroia, though, was not so reticent.

Yeah, its pretty disappointing, he said. Were trying to compete, everyone is, both teams, and you dont want the umpires to come into play and stuff like that. Its hard enough playing the game against good pitching and good players. So its pretty disappointing.

Saltalamacchia went 0-for-4 Sunday with four strikeouts.

From a hitters aspect of it, I dont know too much because I swung at pretty much everything he threw, Saltalamacchia said. But I felt there were some pitches they could definitely have went our way. But just the way game is, you know. You cant really rely on the umpires. We got to do it ourselves and thats what it boils down to.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.