ANAHEIM, Calif. — Manager Joe Maddon made his frustration with home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins very obvious during a seventh-inning pitching change Wednesday, complaining vociferously enough about the strike zone to be ejected.
Rays starter Scott Kazmir waited until after the vexing 4-2 loss to share his, complaining not only about missed strike calls during several key at-bats but questioning the veteran umpire's reputation and integrity, accusing him of making certain calls to make up for others.
"I never said anything like this about an umpire but that was just a crucial part of the game and you just don't do that," Kazmir said. "Makeup calls or not makeup calls; call it when it's there. You know what I mean? You shouldn't change your strike zone just because of the count. It doesn't make sense."
Kazmir, 24, used an assortment of adjectives to describe Cousins' performance including "unbelievable," "ridiculous" and "amazing." Several times, he said, "I've never seen anything like that before."
Cousins, a veteran of 28 seasons and a crew chief, was dismissive when the comments were relayed to him.
"I didn't know he's been around that long," Cousins told the Times. "I've got nothing to say. … It won't be the first time or the last time that he says something."
Kazmir, dazzling early in retiring the first 14 Angels as he sought a seventh straight win, had issues with several pitches, but the most grievous was in the seventh as he was battling to protect a 2-1 lead.
The Angels had two on and two out, and Kazmir had a 2-and-2 count on Reggie Willits. The next pitch was close, and Cousins called it ball three. The pitch after that was a fastball that Kazmir said was over the white part of the plate but Cousins told catcher Dioner Navarro was outside, loading the bases.
"As soon as Willits got up, it was like, 'You can swing if you want to, but if not, just take your base. Thanks for coming. It's all good,' " Kazmir said.
Kazmir stared in, bent at the knees, in disbelief. Maddon was unhappy, too, and said later his issue with Cousins was that the strike zone needs to stay the same throughout the game, "that things don't change when it gets hot."
Kazmir had already thrown a season-high 113 pitches by then (including an intentional walk), but Maddon said he had no thoughts of making a change, based on Kazmir's frustration or performance.
"That situation, bases loaded, I'm not going to take him out. I'm not," Maddon said. "He's the right guy for that moment, and I trust him. And it just didn't happen. He pitched great, and I'm very pleased with his performance."
Kazmir admitted the blown call was still in his mind as faced Maicer Izturis and threw four consecutive fastballs. Izturis fouled three off, then singled to the right of center, scoring two to put the Angels up 3-2. Vladimir Guerrero added a homer in the eighth off J.P. Howell.
Kazmir said he had been told before the game by "veterans" on the Rays that Cousins didn't like to call third strikes and that his nickname was "Shoebox," a reference to the size of the strike zone. With that idea in his head, Kazmir — who had 10 strikeouts, but all swinging — became increasingly frustrated as the afternoon wore on as the Rays completed a key road trip 3-6 and dropped to 38-28.
And it wasn't just the pitches that weren't called strikes he was upset about. Kazmir said that after Cousins didn't give him a third-strike call on an earlier at-bat to Willits, he called the first pitch to the next batter a strike, even though it was "literally almost in the dirt," and that wasn't right, either.
"You just don't call someone out on strikes, but on the next pitch you try to make up for it? … How is that okay?" Kazmir said. "It's like it was already pre-determined, like he already had it in his head what he was going to call."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.