Joe Nathan has been a warrior in 2013. Please don’t start with the 38 year-old, over-the-hill, doesn’t-have-it-anymore talk; he wasn’t sharp on Tuesday night, and he certainly wasn’t helped by the home plate impure, Kerwin Danley.
With the Rangers trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the 6th, the offense erupted after Nelson Cruz, with one out, reached on an error. Adrian Beltre followed with an RBI double to left-center, Elvis Andrus — with two outs — singled in Beltre, and Mitch Moreland capped off the burst with a two-run blast onto Green’s Hill. Texas led 4-3, and took that lead with them into the 9th inning.
In the 9th inning, with a runner on 1st and one out, Joe Nathan had a nifty little exchange with Abraham Nunez where, as you can see the the above image on the left, featured 5 pitches within the realm of a MLB Gameday’s theoretical strike zone (Ben Walnick). Notorious strike-zone nazi, Kerwin Danley, was umpiring behind the plate. The first two pitches were called balls, pitch #5 (above in green) wasn’t awarded in the vein of a makeup-strike call, and that led to pitch #6, a hanging slider right over the lower heart of the plate. Nunez tied the game at 4-apiece with a double to left-center, and eventually scored the winning run on a Brent Lillibridge single to left;
In the bottom of the 9th, the Rangers didn’t do anything against Mariano Rivera, though, as you can see in from the pitch f/x data on the image to the right, Leonys Martin wasn’t given nearly the same, more-than-fair crack against Rivera as Nunez had with Nathan the inning before.
There’s no evidence I can click on to suggest The Great Mariano got any sort of advantage that Joe Nathan did not; I’m not going to sit here and say that — since Rivera is going to the Hall-of-Fame — he gets the benefit of fringy strikes.
But I will say that, on this night, the strike zone was tighter for the Rangers than it was for the Yankees in the 9th inning. The bitching is justified. Because whichever way I slice it, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that this game was not taken away from us by the Yankees, but rather the man behind home plate deciding what constituted a ball and a strike.