ST. PETERSBURG — There were, Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged, "a lot of people culpable" for Wednesday's ugly 10-6 loss to the Indians.
Starter Jeremy Hellickson contributed, with a few misplaced pitches as a 4-0 lead withered. Infielders Elliot Johnson and Carlos Peña lent a hand by not making plays Maddon said they should have. Relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Jake McGee pitched in by allowing six consecutive two-out hits in Cleveland's five-run seventh inning. And the Rays hitters overall were at fault for not getting more out of 10 hits and 10 walks, the first time in franchise history they lost with double-digits in both.
But Maddon singled out home plate umpire Dan Iassogna for the most blame, and certainly the most colorful commentary before a Trop gathering of 15,143. Specifically, for not calling a third strike on McGee's 1-and-2 pitch to Jason Kipnis that would have ended the seventh inning with the Rays leading 4-3.
"Danny Iassogna is a good umpire," Maddon said. "He missed that call. He absolutely blew that call. And that's a big play in tonight's game. …
"That's strike three, and all of a sudden the inning is over, and all of a sudden everybody's happy. Jake goes home happy, he pets his dog, he kisses his wife, he feels really good about tonight's performance. But when you miss a call like that under those circumstances, then everybody goes home with a negative vibe, and I refuse to do that."
Kipnis fouled off three more pitches then singled up the middle. Maddon went promptly to the mound, but that was just for positioning, a move he has used before — part of the occasional Joe-nanigans — to provide a forum to vent at an umpire.
The call on McGee came an inning after Iassogna called Matt Joyce out on a third strike that appeared to be obviously low and outside, and Maddon, ejected for the first time this season and 24th as a Ray, went for quality in his words because he didn't get much quantity before being tossed.
"At some point I've got to stand up for my guys," Maddon said. "Those are really not appropriate calls in those moments. … That can't happen. Such an obviously good pitch cannot be called a ball under those circumstances where it really flips the game."
McGee said he thought the fastball was a strike, enough that he was about to walk off the mound: "I was kinda shocked a little bit." He made it worse, of course, allowing another RBI single to Michael Brantley then a three-run homer to Carlos Santana.
"I just can't let it get out of hand after that," McGee said. "I've just got to make better pitches and get ahead."
Of course, the Rays, who dropped to 47-45 and failed again to build momentum from the previous day's victory, shouldn't have been in that position. Hellickson, who hasn't won since mid May, sailed though four innings allowing one hit, then gave up three runs in a messy fifth, the worst of his 31 pitches the one that hit ex-mate Casey Kotchman with two outs, setting up the rally.
"It's not just about that call," Maddon said. "It's about a lot of other things we did not do well."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.