ARLINGTON, Texas – Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said he can often tell when an umpire knows he’s blown a call by the look on his face.
“I’ve seen eyes twitch,” Maddon said after Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. “The look tonight indicated, ‘Let’s run for the hills.'”
Maddon said that look came from home plate umpire Marty Foster, who apparently didn’t get a good look at the final pitch of the game. Maddon went so far as to say the game was “pretty much stolen” from the Rays.
With a full count on Ben Zobrist and a runner on first, Foster called a low and outside curveball from Joe Nathan a strike, ending Tampa Bay’s comeback bid. The pitch tracker on the local television broadcast indicated the pitch was well outside the strike zone.
A seething Maddon ran from the dugout to confront Foster. The two had a heated discussion while fireworks went off to celebrate the Rangers’ win.
“My only thought is, that cannot happen in a major league baseball game,” Maddon said. “That kind of call cannot occur.
“I don’t even want to say ‘under those circumstances, the last inning, last out of the game.’ I’m not even going to go there. That call cannot be made in a major league baseball game.”
During the on-field disagreement, Maddon said Foster explained that the pitch was deceiving because of the way it was caught.
“That (Rangers catcher A.J.) Pierzynski caught the ball poorly, it wasn’t as bad of a pitch as it appeared,” Maddon said. “I disagree.”
After watching a replay, Foster told pool reporter Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he missed the call.
“I saw the pitch [on replay] and of course I don’t have the chance to do it again,” Foster said. “But had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn’t call that pitch a strike.”
Maddon had calmed down by the time he spoke to reporters, but his mind was still reeling with the consequences of the missed call. The Rays nearly came all the way back from a 5-1 deficit after seven innings in the first of a three-game series in Arlington.
“Had we been able to come back and take the lead and win the game, what that does for your team for the next several days, what it does to their team, the doubt that it puts into their pitcher’s head, the confidence that it gives to your guys,” Maddon said. “There’s all these complementary effects that are difficult to measure that are impacted by that particular call.
“To have the game pretty much stolen from you is kind of difficult.”
Foster said Maddon acted professionally despite his anger. Umpiring crew chief Tim Welke told the pool reporter he doesn’t foresee Maddon being disciplined for the confrontation.
“The best thing about Joe is that tomorrow’s a new day,” Welke said. “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.”