Questionable umpiring leaves Sox with bad taste

789316.jpg

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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

red_sox_mookie_betts_082516.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

red_sox_steven_wright_082616.jpg

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.