By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — David Ortiz was not happy when he struck out in the fifth inning on Thursday night against Andrew Miller. But he was apparently also still carrying some displeasure from his strikeout against Miller in early May.
You’ll remember that at-bat as the one that made Ortiz lose his mind on the field at Yankee Stadium after one borderline pitch and one pitch outside of the strike zone went against Ortiz in the ninth inning of a one-run game.
The stakes were higher on Thursday in Game 1 of the ALDS, when Ortiz faced Miller — now with the Indians — with two runners on and two outs in a one-run game. Ortiz took the first four pitches of the at-bat. Two were called balls. Two were called strikes.
He ended up striking out, chasing a pitch down and away outside of the zone. But after the 5-4 loss, he expressed some pent-up frustration with how the umpires treat Miller.
“It’s so frustrating facing Miller because it seems like every pitch is a strike,” he said. “I mean, I got two strikes and not one of those pitches was a strike. They were down in the zone. So, that’s the second time that happened to me with him.”
Recognizing where the conversation might be steered, he was quick to compliment the lefty.
“But anyway, he’s very filthy and you just hope to God for him to make a mistake,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz didn’t appear to be over-the-top enraged by the calls, but it likely wasn’t a coincidence that his first answer to the media involved not only the calls from Thursday night but the calls from back in May. The complaint isn’t likely to impact the umpiring in this series in the same way an NBA head coach can alter the officiating in a basketball series, but if it buys Ortiz even one ball from an umpire who’s just the slightest bit gun-shy, then it will have been worth it.
As far as the specific complaints of Thursday go, Ortiz doesn’t appear to have the world’s greatest argument, but he has a case nevertheless. Brooks Baseball’s strike zone map does show one pitch below the strike zone that was called a strike for Cleveland. That appears to be the breaking ball that went for a called strike to Ortiz. And when you combine the sharp downward movement of Miller’s pitches with the above-average height of Ortiz, it’s a matchup that’s never going to make the hitter happy.
But as the series progresses, it’ll be interesting to see the cat-and-mouse game that might play out, now that Miller knows that one borderline strike at the bottom of the zone could get inside the head of the Red Sox’ most feared hitter.