Boston Red Sox, Umpires, Look for Series Sweep Against Detroit Tigers

Tom FitzContributor IIIMay 31, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after making the putout on a ground ball hit by Prince Fielder #28 of the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning to end the game at Fenway Park May 29, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red sox won 6-3. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Perhaps if Dwyane Wade and LeBron James played for the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox would not be on the verge of their first series sweep since a three game sweep of the Minnesota Twins in late April.

But, alas, Wade and James are getting their calls from the officiating in a different sport.

Make no mistake, the Red Sox have looked excellent against Detroit over the past three nights. The umpires have not.

The Red Sox have outscored The Tigers 13-11 over the first three games. In a series this closely contested, officiating has the potential to play a huge, if not unfortunate, role in the outcome.

Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.15) will take the mound tonight against the Tigers' right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer (4-3, 5.67). The Tigers will look to snap their three-game losing streak and hope the umpires don’t become part of the story once again.

The umpires quickly became part of the story in Game 1.

Mike Aviles was at the plate in the second inning with two outs and two strikes. He foul-tipped a pitch from Doug Fister into catcher Gerald Laird’s mitt. Strike three, right?

Not so fast.

Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson claimed the ball hit the ground before Laird made the grab. First base umpire Bill Welke agreed. It was obvious upon replay that they were both wrong.

Aviles had new life and didn’t waste it. He hit an RBI single to keep the inning alive. Daniel Nava followed with a double. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single. Four runs scored. The damage was done and the Tigers never recovered. (Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA - MAY 28:  Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after being thrown out of the game by umpire Chris Guccione in the second inning at Fenway Park May 28, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Watch the series of events here.

According to USA Today, Leyland went off after the game, telling reporters:

I mean, there should not have been a second-inning rally, There was three outs. I've been in the game a long time, and when the catcher catches the ball and it's strike three, you call the guy out. It's that simple, isn't it? I mean, you guys need to write something and hold people accountable! You know what? We're all accountable in this business! All of us are accountable! And when I say all of us, I mean everybody that's involved in the game needs to be held accountable! OK? That's exactly what needs to be done. There should not have been a rally in that inning. Now anybody that saw that, have the nerve to write what you saw and say it. Because I'm not going to sit here and rip umpires. But you saw what you saw, clearly saw what you saw —I just saw it for the 10th time — clearly saw what you saw, write it and say something once in a while. Have the nerve to say something.

Ok, I’ll say it, the umps have been a 10th man on the field this series for the Red Sox.

Let’s jump to Game 3.

During the top of the seventh, the Red Sox were clinging to a 4-3 lead. Jon Lester was on the mound and was clearly tiring.

Alex Avila hit Lester’s 108th pitch off the Monster and attempted to turn the hit into a double. Nava played the ball perfectly off the wall and gunned it to second. The play was close, but Avila appeared to skirt around the tag of Nick Punto.  

The Red Sox are all smiles after winning three in a row.
The Red Sox are all smiles after winning three in a row.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

He was called out.

Laird came up next and doubled. This would have driven in the tying run.

According to Tom Gage of The Detroit News, "Twitter erupted with the anger of those who thought Alex Avila was safe at second instead of being called out as he tried to stretch a leadoff single off the wall in left into a double."

The seventh-inning umpire drama didn’t end there.

With two outs, Octavio Dotel worked Nava to a 2-2 count. He appeared to have Nava struck out on a fastball right over the plate and took the obligatory first few steps toward the dugout.

It was called a ball.

Nava went on to draw a walk and eventually scored the game-winning run on an Adrian Gonzalez double.

After the game Leyland told the press, "The umpire (Chris Guccione) was man enough to tell Alex (Avila) he thought he missed the pitch. I appreciate the fact he admitted it, but that's the third out." (The Detroit News)

The Red Sox and Tigers will take the field for the series finale tonight. Let’s hope we’re not talking about the umpires tomorrow.