I don't like it when people complain about an umpire's strike zone as if it cost their team the game. There are always other, larger factors involved. But I think it is fair to say that in Boston's 3-2 loss to Toronto yesterday afternoon, Dale Scott sure didn't do Boston any favors late in the game.
One only need to look at the F/X pitch chart for Dale Scott, created by Brooks Baseball and brought to the public's attention by the Globe's Peter Abraham. Here is the chart:
Red triangles are strikes thrown by Toronto. Red squares are strikes thrown by the Sox. As you can see, Toronto was playing with a much looser zone. And that did matter late in the game.
With Boston down 3-1 in the ninth and a runner on second with one out, David Ortiz was called out on a 3-2 pitch that was closer to Ipswich Street than the strike zone. It should have been runners on first and second with one out when Beltre hit that single. Now I am not saying that the Sox would have won or even tied. Frankly, they should have scored at least one or two runs by that point. But the point is that they never even had that chance to find out because of a horrific strike call from Dale Scott.
You basically know an umpire screwed up when you talk about them. It happened with Angel Hernandez and Joe West in the opening series with New York. And it happened last night. Every fan of every team has a horror story to tell about the bad call that cost them the game. Some are epic, like Don Denkinger's blunder in the '85 Series. Most are like Scott's; a bad call that minimizes a team's chance to win but doesn't single-handedly alter the outcome. I mean, all McDonald needed to do was hit a single and that game was tied. Or if Wakes hadn't given up that homer in the seventh, Beltre's RBI single would have won it. So to say Scott "cost Boston the game" isn't true. But it didn't make trying to win it any easier, either.
Wakefield threw a good game but ultimately didn't get the support he needed. One bright note was that he recorded his 2,000 career strikeout. He has 2,002 now, placing him 63rd all-time in the majors. But the end result is that Boston is now 18-17 on the year and 12-11 at home. However, after 35 games last year Boston was 21-14. So they're only three games off the pace of a season where they won 95 games. What makes it look worse than it is would be the stellar start both New York and Tampa have had. But both teams have stumbled slightly as of late. Which is to be expected only because the law of averages runs against those two teams playing that hot all season long.
The Sox get today off and then don't have another break until Memorial Day. During this stretch they will play the Tigers, Yankees, Phillies and Rays on the road for 11 games out of 17 in total. So it won't get any easier for them. At that point last year (after 52 games), the Sox were 30-22. To match that, the Sox will have to go 12-5. Not impossible, but not likely either. If they can just go 10-7 (and I think they can), they'll be two games off their 2009 pace. After their rough start, that would be a good place for Boston to be in come June 1.