Tampa Bay Rays
Umpire admits mistake on final pitch of Rays' loss
ARLINGTON, Texas -
Upon further review, home plate umpire Marty Foster said he blew the call that ended Monday's game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers.
Ben Zobrist was batting with Sean Rodriguez on first base and the Rays down a run when Rangers closer Joe Nathan appeared to have bounced his full count pitch outside.
Foster called it a strike, which ended the game and sent the Rays to a 5-4 loss.
Zobrist threw his batting helmet.
"I was very shocked," Zobrist said. "And I think everybody was shocked. I was just trying to explain to him that it wasn't just outside. It was down, too. I mean it was a ball. But like I said, Marty's like everybody else. He's going to make mistakes at times. It's part of all of us as we're trying to get better in the game."
Rays manager Joe Maddon charged from the dugout to argue the call.
"My only comment on the whole situation, my only thought is that cannot happen in a major league baseball game," Maddon said.
Foster, after watching a replay afterwards in the umpire's dressing room, agreed.
"I saw the pitch, and of course I don't have a chance to do it again, but had I had a chance to do it again I would not have called that pitch a strike," Foster told a pool reporter after the game.
A lot of good that did the Rays, who began a 10-game, four-city road trip on a bad note.
Maddon said from looking at Foster's eyes while arguing that he sensed Foster knew he blew the call.
"The look in his eyes indicated, 'Let's run for the hills,'" Maddon said.
Maddon said Foster told him he thought the pitch was a strike but Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski did a poor job of catching the ball.
Maddon wasn't buying it.
"To have the game stolen from you is very difficult," he said.
Added Jeremy Hellickson, who celebrated his 26th birthday by being the losing pitcher: "That was probably the worse call I've ever seen. That was horrible."
That Zobrist had a chance to come to bat as the go-ahead run was a product of the Rays' ability to pick at a 5-1 deficit after seven innings and the inability of the Rangers bullpen to close to door.
Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, the Rays managed to score two runs without the benefit of a hit despite having the bases loaded and one out.
Shelley Duncan walked to force in Desmond Jennings. then Yunel Escobar hit into a force out that scored Zobrist.
A better job there and maybe Foster wouldn't have become the central part of the story. The Rays are now 0-for-9 with a pair of walks with the bases loaded this season.
Also, had Hellickson not allowed three two-out runs and Kyle Farnsworth not allowed two more of them, maybe the game wouldn't have hinged on an umpire's call.
Hellickson was not pleased with Foster's strike zone in the first place. He wanted to go inside to left-handed batters but wasn't getting calls. Still, he said, that didn't stop him from still trying to go inside.
"I kept trying to make pitches and I wasn't getting them," he said.
The Rays have allowed 38 runs this season, 24 with two outs.
Nathan came on in the ninth inning looking for his 300th career save.
He allowed a leadoff single to catcher Jose Molina who, remarkably, stole second base. Sean Rodriguez drove him home with a two-out single, setting the stage for Zobrist.
Zobrist was the man for the moment from the Rays' perspective, since he entered 4-for-5 with two home runs against Nathan for his career.
Zobrist got ahead 3-1 and took strike two. A walk and Evan Longoria would come to the plate with the tying run on second base.
That's exactly what Zobrist thought he had earned. He spun and was on his way to first base when Foster rung him up.
"I think it's very safe to say we got a very fortunate call, but we'll take it," Nathan said. "I think I might have been the last guy on the field that realized the game was over."
Zobrist took off his helmet and argued as Maddon and some Rays players spilled out of the dugout.
"I think he was just saying that A.J. caught it bad," Zobrist said. "'He didn't catch it right, it was still a strike.' I saw it the whole way. I felt like I saw the ball really well. And I knew it was a ball."
Third base coach Tom Foley got between Zobrist and Foster to prevent Zobrist from bumping the umpire and drawing a suspension.
After the game, a calmer Zobrist took the high road.
"Well you know, umpires make mistakes just like players do," Zobrist said. "You know, it was a tough time to have a bad call. I just hope it doesn't end up costing us the playoffs in the end. I know it's the first week of the season, but every win is important. And we might have had a chance to win that one. "But everybody makes mistakes. So what are you going to do?"
Crew chief Tim Welke said he doesn't expect the incident to go any further than the postgame argument.
"The best thing is that tomorrow's a new day," Welke said. "It's hard sometimes. It's hard for us when we're not perfect. There's nothing you can do. Games are full of close plays and close pitches and tomorrow is a new day."