Home plate umpire Gerry Davis had a very strange interpretation of the strike zone on Monday night.
That's pretty blunt, but it is best to get it out of the way right at the top. Davis consistently called pitches in the bottom of the strike zone balls, leading to five walks and a three-run third inning that pushed the Rangers to their 17th loss in the 26 games since Josh Hamilton got injured.
C.J. Wilson walked Daric Barton and Conor Jackson on pitches down in the zone to put himself into a two on, two out jam with Josh Willingham coming to the plate. Another pitch that looked like a strike was called a ball in the Willingham at-bat and then Wilson, likely frustrated by Davis's work, put a meaty fastball right over the middle of the plate. Willingham blasted it out of the park, Trevor Cahill had a three run lead and it was fairly academic from that point.
Rangers fans were howling at the Ballpark on Monday night and a look at the Pitch F/X readings backs up their disgust. Wilson was getting squeezed and that squeezing, directly or indirectly, helped set the table for the biggest hit of the game.
Here's the thing, though: Pitch F/X shows us that Cahill was no luckier when it came to getting called strikes in the lower part of the zone. That doesn't make Davis's work any better -- consistency is all well and good, but correct calls are still ideal -- but it does mean that both teams were playing under the same conditions.
On Monday night, those conditions worked out worse for the Rangers than they did for the A's. Trying to make more of it, trying to say that someone was out to screw the Rangers over, is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize away another painful loss in a long series of them.
The Rangers lost because of Willingham's home run, but they also lost because they went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, because Ryan Tucker was awful in relief and because Cahill didn't let the poor umpiring lead him into a poor start. These things are all symptomatic of the greater problems that have led the Rangers into this losing jag and they don't go away because an umpire has a terrible night.
Davis's work is deserving of scorn and it is awfully frustrating to watch a guy do his job that poorly. In the end, though, it is merely one piece of a bigger picture just as Monday's loss is just one piece of the bigger troubles the Rangers are facing these days.