Called third strike leaves Rays crying foul
Nathan earns 300th save on pitch that appeared well out of zone
ARLINGTON -- Marty Foster blew the call and he knows it now, not that that's much consolation to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Instead of ball four, which replays showed it clearly was, Foster called Ben Zobrist out on Joe Nathan's two-out, 3-2 curveball and the Rangers slipped away with a 5-4 victory Monday night at The Ballpark in Arlington.
"I saw the pitch, and of course I don't have the chance to do it again, but had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike," Foster said after watching the replay following the game.
Zobrist was flabbergasted. Rays manager Joe Maddon couldn't believe his eyes, and he followed Foster and crew chief Tim Welke off the field, arguing his case to no avail.
Had the pitch been called correctly, the Rays would have had runners at first and second and Evan Longoria, already 3-for-3 in the game, coming to the plate.
"That was really very difficult," Maddon said after the game. "My only comment on the whole situation, my only thought is, that can not happen in a Major League baseball game. That kind of call can not occur.
"I don't even want to say under those circumstances, last inning, the last out of the game. I don't even want to go there. That call cannot be made in a Major League baseball game. When it's made like that it takes away our opportunity to come from behind."
Zobrist was surprisingly philosophical.
"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?"
The Rangers, for sure, weren't going to offer it back, especially Nathan, who notched his milestone 300th save with that pitch.
"Plenty have gone the other way," Nathan said. "It's one of those situations where [the umpire] has to battle back there. The umpires have a tough job, too. He's been back there three hours, seen a lot of pitches. I've seen a lot of close calls go against us."
Texas manager Ron Washington didn't even want to see a replay of the pitch.
"Not interested," Washington said. "It won the game for us."
Nathan was just happy to escape a team that has given him nothing but trouble over the years. In six plate appearances against Nathan, Zobrist had gone 4-for-5 with two homers and a walk.
"I thought it was ball four," Nathan said. "I thought he might offer at it, and when he didn't, I was already thinking about what we'd have to do with Longoria now."
Instead, Nathan found himself in the clubhouse, talking about his 300th save.
"It's one more closer to 400," Nathan said. "I hope I have a lot of years left in this game, but what it meant was, we won tonight. We're one step closer to getting to the postseason.
"Like I've said, I would give 300 back if I had a chance to get to the World Series."
All Maddon could think about was what a comeback win might have meant to his team.
"You look at the complementary effects in play there, had we been able to come back and win the game, what it does for your team the next several days, what it does to the other team -- the doubt it puts in their pitcher's head, the confidence it gives your guys," he said. "There are all these complementary effects that are difficult to measure that are impacted by that call."
Foster was complimentary of how Maddon handled the situation.
"Joe was very professional," Foster said. "He was frustrated and I understand. He acted probably the best he can under that situation."
Jim Reeves is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.