Don Mattingly on offensive woes: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been through anything quite like this’
The Miami Marlins were down to their final five outs Tuesday, down by as many runs to the Washington Nationals, when Miguel Rojas’ emotions finally boiled over. The infielder had just been called out on strikes for the first out of the top of the eighth inning and he felt the third strike was inside. He complained briefly to Mike Estabrook behind home plate, then went off to the dugout.
He could only collect himself for a few more minutes. After another borderline called strike for Max Scherzer against Garrett Cooper, Rojas stormed out of the home dugout at Marlins Park to confront Estabrook again. Don Mattingly tried in vain to hold Rojas back and a few minutes later both headed back to the clubhouse, ejected by the home plate umpire in Miami’s 6-1 loss to the Nationals.
“I feel like it was more of a personal thing,” said Rojas, who could now be looking at a suspension for making contact with the umpire. “I wasn’t happy with the called strike three right there.”
Rojas’ ejection came as the end of a frustrating night for the defensive stalwart. Mattingly’s served as the boiling point in a season rife with frustration about how the Marlins (30-47) are officiated.
In Mattingly’s opinion, the issue wasn’t only present against Washington (38-40) on Tuesday in Miami. The inexperience of the Marlins’ staff has hurt them in the strike zone, no matter how well the young starting pitchers have performed.
Mattingly pointed specifically to a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. Veteran starter Adam Wainwright was on the mound for the Cardinals against Zac Gallen, who was making his first career start. The manager felt there was too much inconsistency with how both starting pitchers’ strike zones were called.
“I think there’s frustration with the strike zone. It’s a common thing,” Mattingly said. “For us, you see it a little bit in St. Louis when you get Wainwright or somebody out there, it seems like every pitch they throw close is a strike and then we’ve got Gallen going, and everything has to be over the plate 100 percent and we’re not getting it.”
Miami wound up winning Gallen’s start anyway. The bigger issue Tuesday was the game was a blowout in the late innings. Rojas and Mattingly felt Estabrook was calling borderline strikes to usher in the end of the game.
“I feel like sometimes they make calls because the game is a little [lopsided] right there. You don’t know if you can come back,” Rojas said. “I acted up a little bit in that situation because I thought it was inside.”
Mattingly backed up his team’s veteran leaders.
“Miggy basically is right. He’s basically saying, Hey, we’re still playing. We’ve still got a game going and Max is plenty good enough that he doesn’t need help, right?” Mattingly said. “Guys are going to complain because once you start giving him edges and balls off the edge because it’s close, then you’re going to be in trouble, so guys get frustrated with that.
“It’s the common fight. It’s every night. Not just us. You see it around baseball. The arguments are about the strike zone, so it’s not going to go away the way it is now and guys now — they have all the different websites that are tracking these pitches and they’re doing it with different technology that they know they’re right. So guys know they’re right and how many they’re missing and everything else, so it’s not like you can even argue it. So it’s a common fight and it’s going to keep going until they figure it out.”
The called strike wasn’t the only thing to set Rojas off Tuesday.
Long before his ejection, Rojas got hit by a pitch in the third inning, but only after Scherzer tried to sneak a quick pitch by him for another strikeout. Although Estabrook didn’t let Scherzer’s pitch count, Rojas was still upset about the Cy Young-hopeful starting pitcher’s play.
“I don’t really think it was professional to do a quick-pitch that way,” Rojas said. “I was still looking down, I wasn’t even in the box. He was trying to get a cheapie right there, a cheap strikeout, because I wasn’t even ready to hit. When I play baseball, you’re supposed to have a battle with the pitcher, both being able to play baseball, so I wasn’t that happy with that either, but I know he was trying to compete, trying to strike me out, but I didn’t appreciate that he was trying to compete that way.”