ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' saga with home plate umpire Marty Foster took another twist Tuesday, with another controversial call against Tampa Bay leading to manager Joe Maddon's ejection in the second inning.
"I thought the call was inappropriate," Maddon said.
Foster was the center of attention after the Rays' 5-4 loss to the Rangers on April 8 in Texas, when he called the game-ending strike three on a Joe Nathan pitch that appeared to be more than 6 inches off the plate. Foster told a pool reporter he blew it and called Maddon to apologize.
This was Foster's first series with the Rays since, and he found himself toe-to-toe with Maddon again after calling INF Sean Rodriguez out at the plate. With the Rays down 1-0, runners on first and third and no outs, C Jose Molina sent a safety squeeze bunt down the first-base line. Rodriguez, racing in from third, appeared to get around the attempted tag by Blue Jays C J.P. Arencibia with a headfirst slide, barely touching home plate with the fingers on his left hand.
Maddon said he could see Rodriguez score from the dugout, and didn't like Foster's response, which sparked his second ejection of the season.
"He said I hovered over the plate," Rodriguez said. "My argument was simple, how would I hit dirt in front and behind the plate? It's tough."
HEAVY HEART: RF Ben Zobrist rejoined the team and returned to the lineup Tuesday, having missed two games due to the death of his grandmother, Dorothy Cali, 82.
After Monday's service, Zobrist said he caught the second half of the Rays' 8-7 loss to the Jays on television at his parents' house in Peoria, Ill. "It was hard to take from the living room, much less being there," Zobrist said.
As much as Zobrist doesn't like to miss games, he felt it was important to be with his family and honor Cali, whom they called "Grandma Dot." "She was really supportive of all her grandkids, she'd come to all my games and everything," Zobrist said. "She's come to several Rays games, last time she was down here was a year and a half ago. … It was a time where I needed to be with my family, and it was good."
MORE MOORE: Having allowed as many runs (four) Friday in Colorado as he had combined in his first five starts — all wins — LHP Matt Moore is looking forward to returning to the more pitcher-friendly Trop tonight.
Moore, who has given up one run in two home starts, is encouraged that the Rays have won every time he has taken the mound this season, pointing out a large part is the run support (team-high 5.7 runs per game).
"That means we're feeling good on my day," Moore said. "Which is where we want to be."
EVEN KEEL: 3B Evan Longoria acknowledged that Monday's loss, in which the Rays blew a seven-run lead, stung. "It was one of those games you hope at the end of the year you don't look back and say, 'That was the game that we needed,' " Longoria said.
"My job is just to kind of to really mimic Joe Maddon. Kind of be the backbone, the stable force in the clubhouse, and not come in here on a daily basis in panic mode," Longoria said. "I've got to trust and rely on the 24 other guys on the team, just like everybody else in here should do, and believe that things are going to turn around."
FOR SHORT: SS Yunel Escobar, who made a couple of miscues as a defensive replacement in Monday's game, rebounded nicely Tuesday in his first start since suffering a bruised left hand Saturday.
Escobar, batting ninth, singled and scored in the second inning and made a nice play up the middle in the third.