To put it exceedingly mildly, this hasn’t been the greatest of years for major league umpires. And by the time the bottom of the fifth inning rolled around, Terry Francona must have felt like he’s had enough.
Today was a day that seemed doomed no more than five minutes after it started. Immediately after Mark Reynolds bobbled away what looked to be an easy double play, Michael Bourn couldn’t haul in a line shot from the Rays’ James Loney. Two runs would score on the play, and Zach McAllister would spend the rest of day laboring through 4.1 innings; ending his run of twelve straight starts of going at least five innings and giving up no more than three runs.
But to let’s refer back to the umpires for a moment.
It certainly seemed like McAllister was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Bill Welke (who, in the third inning, was possibly punishing the Tribe battery of McAllister and Yan Gomes for Gomes’ leaving his crouch after a third strike that was called a ball; Evan Longoria would single in a run soon after), but Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson seemed to get the benefit of the doubt on the corners.
This, along with a play involving the ball boy down the right field line that the Rays turned into a triple, exacerbated Mount Francona. He ended up being tossed for the first time as the Indians skipper, and for the 36th time in his managerial career.
The lone inning of damage for the Tribe came in the fourth, in which they clawed back into the game on the strength of an RBI double by Gomes and a two-run single by Mike Aviles.
But whatever momentum gained from the offense was effectively washed away once again by the bullpen. Nick Hagadone’s struggles continued as he gave up a two-run homer to Yunel Escobar, which made it 7-3; sapping any energy the Tribe may have had in reserve for a comeback.
The Rays also greeted rookie Matt Langwell rudely in his Major League debut, as his second pitch was sent over the wall in right by Longoria to close out the scoring.
The good news for today? Baltimore beat Detroit, so the deficit remains at just half a game.
W: Jeremy Hellickson (3-2; 5 INN/9 H/3 ER/4 SO); L: Zach McAllister (4.1 INN/7 H/5 R (4 ER)/4 BB)
Player of the Game: Evan Longoria (2-5; 1 HR, 3 RBI)