Coming into the three game series against the New York Yankees the Oakland Athletics had lost 10 consecutive to the Yankees, so it goes without saying that the Yankees didn't need any help from the umpires to beat the Athletics and unfortunately for the A's Jeff Nelson and his crew did just that.
Starting in game one Marty Foster had a terrible game calling balls and strikes. Nothing illustrates that more than the top of the of the fifth inning. Even with the A's trailing 14-7 at the time it was the turning point in the game and the beneficiaries of these calls were the Yankees.
At the beginning of that inning the A's were trailing 14-5. David Dejesus led off the inning with a single, Conor Jackson followed up with a single, Kurt Suzuki grounded into a fielders choice with Jackson out at second, Cliff Pennington then walked to load the bases up, Jemile Weeks singled in two runs which got the A's within 14-7.
Coco Crisp had the next opportunity with runners at first and second and he worked the count to 3-2, but Crisp ended up being called out on strikes by Hector Noesi. Yet, the pitch was at least six inches of the plate.
If the ball call had been made it would have meant Josh Willingham the A's leader in homeruns and rbis would have been up with the bases loaded with one out instead it was runners on first and second with two outs and Wilingham eventually grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
That called changed the momentum of the game back into the favor of the Yankees. If Willingham had an opportunity with the bases loaded it could have inched the A's even closer and just maybe could have completed an improbable comeback against the Yankees or at least the score closer.
For Foster it wasn't the first inning that he had issues with the strike zone on a strike two call made on Willingham in the top of the fourth inning resulted in the ejection of A's hitting coach Gerald Perry. As the pitch too Willingham was at least six inches too high, but Francisco Cervelli pulled his glove down those six inches to get the strike call. Even after the ejection of Perry, Willingham had some words with Foster.
Also, in the game Foster was hearing it from the A's dugout and he had enough of it and basically warned the A's that someone would be ejected if he kept hearing from the dugout.
Bill Welke blew a call at first base as well. As Jemile Weeks and Conor Jackson went after a ground ball hit by Brett Gardner with the bases loaded, the two nearly collided. Trevor Cahill ran to first and Weeks threw it to him where Cahill slid to first base and got his foot to the bag before the sliding Gardner could get his hand in. Instead of two outs and a run scoring on the ground out, Gardner was ruled safe even though the replay clearly shows Cahill beating Gardner to first.
The A's did not score any more runs after the fifth inning and eventually lost their 11th straight to the Yankees 17-7.
Saturday wasn't much better for the umiring but thankfully there wasn't as much scoring for either teams and the A's actually ended their losing streak to the Yankees, but barely. Though the A's should have scored more than four runs.
This game it was another inconsistent strikezone for an umpire this time Welke, but Jeff Nelson played a much bigger role in the top of the third inning as he missed three calls at first base and each one went against the A's.
First call was on a pickoff of Weeks who slipped while diving back, but even with the slip he still barely got his hand in before Mark Teixeira could get the tag down. Sure the ball got to first before Weeks, but Weeks wisely dove to the outside of first and got his hand in.
Pennington hit a ball to Derek Jeter and his throw did not beat Pennington, yet Nelson called him out. The A's were able to get an infield single from Hideki Matsui and Willingham hit a two-run homerun. This led to the third blown call by Nelson and this one the most ridiculous of them as the other two were close. Dejesus hit a ball into the hole to Jeter who made a jump throw to Teixeira, Dejesus clearly beat the throw.
As for Welke his biggest gaffe came in the bottom of the ninth inning. Andrew Bailey came in to face the top of the Yankees lineup. First task for Bailey to get the speedy Brett Gardner and he did or so it looked. Bailey threw a perfect pitch that started out towards the middle of the plate and ended up on the inside corner catching a ton of the plate.
Yet, the pitch was called a ball so Gardner walked. Jeter then singled and the Yankees were in business with runners on first and second with no outs instead of a runner at first with one out. Bailey then got Curtis Granderson for the first out of the inning by striking him out, but Jeter and Gardner were moving and easily stole second and third.
Bailey got Teixeira to hit a relatively deep flyball to right ceneter which scored Gardner so the game was in reach for the Yankeese as the sacrifice fly made the score 4-3, but Bailey got Robinson Cano to hit a weak groundball to second to end the game.
In the third game Nelson had his turn behind the plate and again another inconsistent strikezone which changed the complexion of the game as well as bad umpiring from the first base umpire this time Vic Carapazza.
The first incident was from Carapazza and that came in the bottom of the third inning. Gio Gonzalez who was starting for the A's appeared to have the first out of the inning but Cliff Pennington's error allowed him to get on.
So, Derek Jeter had a chance to do something with a runner on base and Jeter was able to work a full count from Gonzalez. On the full count pitch Gonzalez threw a 94 mile-per-hour fastball that fooled Jeter and he attempted to check his swing, which he did not.
On the pitch Laird was running so cather Kurt Suzuki threw Laird easily out at second. So, what should have been a double play for the A's turned into another blown call by Nelson's crew. As Carapazza wasn't even paying attention to what Jeter was doing and instead was looking at the play at second even though Marty Foster was the umpire at second base. The A's weren't able to appeal to first base because Carapazza didn't see it, Nelson in this case should have made the correct ruling and that was that Jeter went around, but instead it was ruled ball four and the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs.
That meant Gonzalez had to throw more pitches to get out of the inning and he showed his maturity instead of letting the horrendous call get to him he did get Granderson to hit a deep fly ball to center field that did not allow for Laird or Jeter to tag and then he got Teixeira to bounce into the inning ending double play.
Nelson comes into play on Weeks' at-bat top of the fifth inning against Bartolo Colon with the second pitch of the at-bat Weeks took a strike that should have been a ball as it was clearly off the plate. Which, begs the question to why the same exact pitch thrown by Gonzalez on a 2-2 count to Granderson in the bottom of the fifth inning was called ball three? Instead of a strikeout, Granderson worked the count full and two pitches later he hits a two-run homerun off of Gonzalez.
Teixeira singles, which would have meant Jeter was at second, Cano grounds out to catcher for the second out and moving the runners up, but Gonzalez then strikes out Nick Swisher to end the inning. Yet of course that did not happen. Instead there's only two outs with two runs scoring on the homerun, Russell Martin singles sending Teixeira to third, Andruw Jones follows up with a run scoring single chasing Gonzalez from the game.
Fautino De Los Santos enters for Gonzalez and getting Eduardo Nunez to hit into a fielder's choice for the third out of the inning. Gonzalez's line for the day was 4.2 innings, seven hits, six runs, five strikeouts and three walks and 111 pitches.
The reality is if Gonzalez gets the strike three pitch to Granderson the inning ends up different and his line is much better he should have at least gone 5 innings, five hits, three runs, seven strikeouts and three walks, and his pitch count would have been much lower.
Also, in the top of the fifth inning Matsui hits a double into right centerfield where Granderson does an excellent job of cutting the ball off before it hits the wall and makes a perfect relay throw to Cano. Eric Sogard who was on to start the inning with a walk attempts to score on the play, he slows down to avoid a collision with Russell Martin as the throw from Cano went high, Sogard goes around Martin and scores, Martin attempts to makes the tag and Sogard is called out. After seeing the replay there's no evidence that Martin was able to make the tag, so another blown call by Nelson a play in the field.
In the top of the eighth inning with the A's rallying Dejesus came up with runners on first and second with no outs. He took a from David Robertson then a strike, the next pitch was at his chins but Nelson called it a strike, the very next pitch was in the same exact location and since the previous pitch was called a strike Dejesus swung at it and missed striking out. Instead of a 3-1 count and the possibility of Robertson walking the bases loaded it was the first out of the inning.
This series was a terrible display of umpiring and it's hard to believe that Nelson is a crew chief. He has the credentials of being one of the better umpires in MLB as he's appeared in numerous playoff series and in a couple World Series and even an All-Star game.
Umpiring in the series was terrible.