About last night ...
Some tidbits and leftovers from Tuesday night's wild win:
* Rays manager Joe Maddon said he felt it was important take action for a number of reasons when Angel Hernandez refused to grant Carlos Pena's request for time out, figuring it was a direct product of the MLB effort to speed up games, which this umpiring crew has taken to extremes: "First of all, I'm going to say this: I really like Angel a lot. I think he's a good umpire. I think he handles all situations well. But I just needed to make a stand right there. I felt it was necessary, not only for me, but for all teams, to make a stand in that situation. Again, it's about playing the game right. It's about being fair on both sides. It's about doing the right thing. And to permit the pitcher to have an unfair advantage in that moment, I think is wrong. And to not permit timeouts in that moment I think is wrong. I do. I can understand - make commercials less long, if you want to put it that way, but when the game is on the line, don't permit the game to be decided by the fact that you're not permitted to call timeout."
* Umpire crew chief Joe West's contention was that Hernandez made the right decision given rules - 6.02 in this case - designed to protect pitchers who were already starting their delivery, though on the TV replays it appeared Gregg had not yet started. "You can not ask for timeout once a pitcher is coming to a set position or once a pitcher would be in jeopardy of hurting himself,'' West told the Times, pointing out there is a sign in every clubhouse reminding the players of such. "The rule is two-fold - one is to protect the pitcher from starting his delivery and then having to stop because the hitter stepped out. That's why we don't allow the hitters to cause balks. It's all intertwined with the protocol of the pitcher and hitter and the umpire. And the hitters all know, you ask for time and have to be granted time or it's not out. They don't get to call time, the umpire calls time.''
* West refuted Maddon's premise that the speed-up rules were the prime reason for Hernandez's decision: "It's not just pace of game, it's been there the whole time. ... Because it's part of the pace of game I'm sure it's magnified in their eyes.''
* West also noted several times that Pena had tried to get time called previously in the ninth inning at-bat: "He asked for time out earlier, Angel didn't grant it because Gregg was ready to pitch. And Gregg stopped because the hitter stopped. This time he didn't. And that's the way it is. Those are the rules of the game - the hitters do not call time out, the umpires do. And they know that. The hard part of this is that it's a crucial time in the game. He umpired by the letter of the law, which you're supposed to do.'' West went back to the part about the pitcher: "Ever since I've been in baseball for my 33 years, it's more to protect the pitcher from injuring himself by starting and having to stop. Now there are teams that try to intimidate the pitcher by stepping out, and I don't necessarily think he was trying to do that there. But in the same at-bat he steps out twice.''
* The Pena at-bat was Maddon's second complaint of the night. He had been out earlier when second base umpire Dan Bellino didn't gave the Rays the benefit of the "neighborhood play" when Reid Brignac came off the bag trying to turn a double play as he made a throw to first. "Joe came out and said that play is called 95 percent of the time, well that's not fair,'' West said. "He made a great call at second base.''
* Despite all the emotions of the night - the second base call, the Pena at-bat and Gregg's rant at Hernandez that led to an ejection - the umpires seemed relaxed in their dressing room after the game. Hernandez was eating at the small table as West spoke, with an old Rocky movie showing on the small TV, and the two other umpires hanging out. They invited me to sit down on the couch and talk, and offered food and drink. West took a break from the interview to take a call from old buddy Tommy Lasorda, who was calling from a Nashville establishment, and talked to him for about 10 minutes before getting back to the business at hand.
* It was the second time this season the Rays rallied to win a game after trailing in the eighth inning, the other being opening night.
* Toronto's Kevin Gregg, according to ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew, became the first pitcher to blow a save while walking five or more batters in the ninth inning or later.
* Here's some of Gregg's take on his night: “Obviously walking that many guys in an inning is not going to work, it’s not appropriate. You have your good games and your bad ones and obviously today wasn’t a good one.''
And on umpire Angel Hernandez's night: “Technically we’re not supposed to comment on the strike zone. Obviously you can watch the game to see how things dictate, all we ask is that it’s (the strike zone) consistent throughout the game and consistent in the ninth inning.”
* Also from ESPN, the Rays enter the day leading in Web Gem points, including five plays voted No. 1 by the fans.