If you couldn’t tell by his actions in the ninth inning yesterday, when he was ejected with his team one strike away from being swept, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wasn’t too pleased with the umpiring over the weekend.
“I’ve got guys battling their butts off and it’s not right,” Valentine said after yesterday’s game. “Good umpires had a real bad series this series, a real bad series. And it went one way. There should be a review.”
I doubt a review is coming, and personally, I didn’t see all that many calls that went in the Nationals’ favor that Valentine and the Red Sox have to be upset about. PitchFX showed that a 1-2 pitch to Roger Bernadina in the ninth was in the zone, and a 1-1 offering from Tyler Clippard to Dustin Pedroia in the ninth inning was a bit inside.
But the 2-1 pitch on Michael Morse when he batted with the bases loaded in the third inning was clearly off the plate inside and was called a strike, as was the full-count pitch which was well off the outer edge but was ruled strike three. Those calls were just as egregious - if not more so - than the one on Pedroia.
I also question Valentine’s decision to argue a call with Pedroia in the middle of a two-out battle with Clippard. Talk about a distraction for your last hope in a one-run ballgame.
“If anything, I think he froze his own guy more than me or our team,” Clippard said. “We had the upper hand in that situation. So if you’re going to delay the game or anything, you’re taking your own guy out of rhythm, which maybe he did a little bit.”
Regardless of how the Red Sox are left feeling about the umpiring this morning, the Nationals wake up having swept their weekend hosts, who have been a powerhouse in the incredibly tough American League East for much of the last decade.
The sweep might have been a statement about this year’s Nationals and what could be to come, but it also showed just how far this organization has advanced from the cellar-dwelling seasons of years past.
In 2006, the Nats finished 20 games under .500. They had just 30 wins on the road and ended the season 26 games back in the division. Around this exact time six years ago, Frank Robinson’s Nationals went into Fenway Park to play the Red Sox, and got absolutely demolished.
They were outscored 26-9, outhit 46-22 and saw their starting pitching trio of Tony Armas, Livan Hernandez and Shawn Hill pitch to a 14.72 ERA in those three games. It was another embarrassing series sweep, one of many over a rough five-season run.
This time, the Fenway experience was a bit different. The Nats outscored the Red Sox 15-9, got clutch hitting and saw Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann strike out 25 hitters in 19 1/3 strong innings.
“There’s a lot of places I felt embarrassed,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the lone member of these Nationals who was on the team during that ‘06 season. “Not just (Boston). That’s just the way it was. We’ve come a long way. We got swept a lot of places in ‘06. Or ‘07. We weren’t very good then. We were rebuilding still. Now it’s a different story. We’ve got a long ways to go, still. I think a lot of things have changed since then.
“I think the organization’s come a long way in six years.”
Entering this series, the Nationals/Expos organization had never won in Boston. They’d gone 0-9 in Beantown in franchise history, including that awful three-game sweep in 2006.
Now, not only are they in the win column in Boston, they have a three-game sweep to be proud of.
“We were overdue,” manager Davey Johnson said. “This is a whole new ballclub. Great makeup, great talent on this ball club. And it’s only going to get better.”