Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't hold back his criticism of home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt and his strike zone on Friday that led to his ejection prior to the bottom of the sixth inning of Boston's 4-3 win over Tampa Bay Friday at Fenway Park. Several Rays were called out on strikes, including John Jaso to end the top of the sixth and B.J. Upton an inning earlier. Both strikeouts came on pitches that appeared well outside.
"Obviously, I went out there to discuss the width of the strike zone, and I never mentioned anything about balls and strikes," Maddon said after Friday's game. "I was trying to have a conversation. He immediately threw me out. I said, 'Listen, I'm not coming out here to argue. I just want to know what's going on because my guys are talking about how wide it is.' He didn't like me asking that question. I wanted to be respectful. I didn't yell. I walked out there and I thought I did it in a fashion where nobody else would know. I had no intention of getting kicked out right there. I just wanted to know what was going on, everybody keeps complaining about the width of the strike zone.
"So, I came back up [into the clubhouse] and watched it after that. And it was pretty egregious. There's no question but let the court of public opinion prevail here. I think anybody who would watch that and would be pretty objective about things, I'll take it. I'll take whatever they have to say. It's tough enough to beat Beckett but when he's getting pitches on the [inside batter's box] chalk lines, that makes it much more difficult."
The game was a match-up of two aces as James Shields took the loss while Josh Beckett struck out seven in six innings to collect his 13th and most-important win of the season.
"Obviously, under these circumstances, and I'm all for the fact that the Red Sox beat us tonight, God bless them, they beat us tonight. But, our hitters were at a great disadvatage today, they really were," Maddon said. "And I definitely saw it as being one-sided.
"Shields, I thought, did a great job. Beckett had good stuff tonight. But he definitely was helped by the width of the plate. There's no question. For me not to admit to that, I'm really taking away from the fight of our players tonight and their tenacity. Our players were very tenacious tonight. It was very difficult trying to protect a 21-to-22-inch plate," Maddon added of Wendelstedt's monitoring of the 17-inch plate.
Maddon said despite losing and falling to four games back of the Red Sox in the wild card race, he still holds out hope, especially if his team can rally for the final two games at Fenway this weekend.
"We're still in good position if we could get [Saturday] and Sunday's game," Maddon said. "That puts us in pretty good shape but it was made much more difficult by the actions of the home plate umpire." For more, visit the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox  and the Full Count  blog.