NEW YORK — David Ortiz is still waiting for Andrew Miller to throw him a strike.
The first pitch was a strike, but only because Ortiz swung at an inside fastball and fouled it off. The next five weren’t, as far as Ortiz was concerned.
“Even the one that I swung at was a ball. Miller was pitching very careful,” Ortiz said. “You look at that whole entire at-bat, everything was a ball.”
Umpire Ron Kulpa disagreed. He called Ortiz out on strikes in the ninth inning on Friday night, helping send the Red Sox to a controversial 3-2 loss against the Yankees.
Manager John Farrell was ejected first. Then Ortiz joined him in the clubhouse before Hanley Ramirez struck out to leave the bases loaded and the Red Sox furious.
“That’s a situation with the game on the line. You’ve got to focus better,” Ortiz said.
Players argue balls and strikes all the time. But the Red Sox appeared to have a legitimate case this time. Miller’s 3-and-1 pitch was a slider that landed in the dirt in the opposing batter’s box once catcher Brian McCann tracked it down.
Kulpa called it a strike and Ortiz was saved from being ejected only because Farrell was. The next pitch was low and Kulpa called Ortiz out. This time Ortiz was ejected after going to the dugout, then charging back onto the field.
Ortiz had to be restrained by Farrell, who hadn’t left the field.
“He’d need a hockey stick for the 3-2 pitch,” Farrell said.
Umpires are under no obligation to take questions after games. But Kulpa defended his decisions.
“The 3-1 pitch, I had it coming through the zone,” he said. “That’s why I called it a strike. McCann didn’t help me out. He took the ball down a little bit. But the pitch still came through the zone.”
Said Farrell: “We’ve seen it so many times. If a catcher frames a pitch that’s a borderline pitcher’s pitch, that’s going to get called a strike. In addition to a borderline pitch probably maybe a tick below the zone, that’s pushed down below the zone. That’s a tough one to take.”
As for the 3-and-2 pitch?
“I had it in the zone right down the middle,” Kulpa said.
Television replays and even MLB’s pitch-tracking software had the pitch well out of the strike zone.
“Everybody’s watching. The game’s on the line. We need to win this game. We’re not playing the game to just give it away. We’re playing well,” Ortiz said.
“I can understand one time but not two. Both of those pitches were bad. He’s looking at me like I screwed up. I didn’t screw up.”
Farrell was stoic afterward but clearly upset with how his team lost for only the third time in their last 12 games.
“Anybody who was watching that game closely understands what the story of this one was,” he said.
Farrell was so angry he had to be essentially ejected again after the final pitch was thrown to Ortiz. Farrell also motioned that Kulpa should be tossed. That was a new one for the umpire.
“Not in my career, not for myself. I’m sure you can maybe dig something up from back in the old days with Earl Weaver,” Kulpa said.
Glad somebody was amused.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Yankees starter Michael Pineda.
Bogaerts doubled with two outs. Ortiz then lined a slider over the fence in right field. It was Big Papi’s seventh home run of the season and the 510th of his career. That put him in sole possession of 25th place all time, one behind Mel Ott.
Ortiz has 452 homers with the Red Sox, tied with Carl Yastrzemski for second in team history. Ted Williams leads with 521.
Down 2-0, the Yankees were able to tie the game in their first two innings against Rick Porcello.
Pineda was done after six innings and 106 pitches. Christian Vazquez started the seventh inning with a double off Chasen Shreve. But the Red Sox wasted the chance. Mookie Betts, up 2-and-1 in the count against a lefthander, bunted on his own and popped the ball up to McCann.
Righthander Kirby Yates got Dustin Pedroia to ground to shortstop and struck out Bogaerts looking with a fastball well off the outside corner.
Porcello had retired 12 of 13 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. His first pitch was a fastball right over the plate and Aaron Hicks drove it into the seats in right field.
Hicks was 3 for 34 without an extra-base hit before the home run.
New York manager Joe Girardi, desperate to win, broke one of his own rules in the eighth inning, going to set-up man Dellin Betances for a third consecutive day. He followed that by asking Miller to get a four-out save for the first time this season.
The Red Sox stranded five runners in the final two innings. Miller threw 35 pitches. His previous high this season was 23.
Miller entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning and a runner on first. He issued his first walk of the season, putting Chris Young on, before striking out Jackie Bradley Jr.
In the ninth inning, pinch hitter Josh Rutledge led off with a single. Pedroia then singled with one out. Bogaerts followed with a shallow popup that fell in for a single and loaded the bases.
Ortiz was next and chaos ensued. Ramirez had a chance but struck out swinging.
“We have to come back to tomorrow now and find a way,” Ortiz said. “What can we do?”
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.