NEW YORK -- Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon is not one to complain about the strike zone, or the men in black who call balls and strikes.
But after suffering his eighth blown save of the season in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday of a game the Yankees won 4-3 in the 10th, all but ending Boston's playoff hopes, Papelbon decided it was time to speak his mind.
“It was really tough tonight. Considering I’m not only pitching against the hitter, I’m pitching against the umpire,” Papelbon said. “I mean, when you’ve got to do that against this lineup, you’ll never be successful. It just won’t happen.”
After Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka worked eight strong innings, allowing only two runs on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts, Papelbon entered the bottom of the ninth with a 3-2 lead, his teammates having scored twice in the top of the inning off Mariano Rivera.
The right-hander recorded a quick out by getting Derek Jeter to pop out to right field, but Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back singles.
Alex Rodriguez then worked the count to 2-2. Papelbon threw a splitter and a slider on the next two pitches and thought he had strike three both times. Instead, plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called each pitch a ball and Rodriguez drew a walk to load the bases. Robinson Cano followed with the tying RBI single.
Papelbon went off when asked if he thought he had Rodriguez struck out.
“Yeah. Not only with that at-bat, but plenty of at-bats I felt like I threw the ball well,” Papelbon said. “I felt like I threw clutch pitches in clutch situations, mixed up my pitches well, and in those situations when you’ve got to pitch on the plate and resort to that, you’re going to get beat, especially against this lineup in this ballpark.”
Did Papelbon find himself having to give in?
“Yeah. No question. No question about it,” he said. “When you’ve got to do that, you’re in a lose-lose situation. Just call the game. There are 27 outs, call the game. Don’t let the crowd influence you, don’t let the hitter influence you, don’t call the pitch where the catcher catches it; stay focused for 27 outs. Call the game.
“I’m not blaming the umpire. I could have definitely battled a little bit more out of that situation. I’m not one to complain about pitches, no. I’m not one to do that at all, but when you’re pitching against the umpire and that lineup, nobody can win that situation. It’s impossible.
“I mean, I made big pitches when I had to, and when you don’t get those, it changes an entire at-bat to now where you have to pitch on the plate and give in to them, instead of them giving into you,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t know what else to say, man.”
Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez was asked if he thought Boston’s pitchers were getting squeezed.
“You can’t blame the umpires,” Martinez said.