Cody Ross took five pitches from Rays closer Fernando Rodney in his final at-bat of the day on Monday. The last two were called strikes as Ross struck out looking to end the game, helping the Rays hang on for a 1-0 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. But TV replays showed all three called strikes by home plate umpire Larry Vanover were well outside. After the final one that came with the tying and winning runs on base, Ross slammed his bat and helmet to the ground and had words with Vanover, who approached Ross before leaving the field.
"It's tough because I'm up there battling my butt off, trying to get something going right there in a late situation," Ross said. "For me, it's unacceptable. I'm bearing down, our whole team is bearing down. Everybody on the field should be bearing down.
"We've been playing this game for so long that you recognize pitches early, and you see them out of the hand and you say, 'that's a ball' and it crosses wherever, and it's [called] a strike. So, I've taught myself over the years to take those pitches and not expand my strike zone, make him make a mistake and he didn't make a mistake. As soon as it comes out of his hand, I'm in shutdown mode. What are you going to do? Just move on and get them tomorrow."
Ross was frustrated - in part - because he said there's no accountabilitiy from the umpires.
"It's tough," Ross said. "That's the crazy thing about this game. If I'm going up there and I'm striking out every at-bat, I'm going to get benched. But it's not that way with them. They can make bad calls all day and they're not going to be held accountable for it. It's such a tough situation, believe me. I've umpired before, it's tough, it's hard. But at this level, you have to bear down. "
Adrian Gonzalez, who grounded out for the second out of the ninth, went even further in his criticism of Vanover.
"Those pitches that were called on Cody, that's just not right. They're in the left-handed hitter's box and the way I see it, we missed the playoffs by one game last year, and if he walks there how he should have, Sweeney gets a hit and we wind up winning, it could make a difference. Those three pitches to Cody, that shouldn't happen."
Gonzalez said he couldn't offer much comfort to Ross, who had worked the count to two balls and a strike before taking the final two strikes to end the game.
"You can't say anything," Gonzalez said. "You look at the video, the over-the-top view and those pitches are in the left-handed batter's box, and they're not even close. They don't start close and they don't end close so, it's unfortunate for Cody to have to end the game like that."