- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After the Boston Red Sox lost 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, Adrian Gonzalez sat at his stall in the corner of the visitor's clubhouse with his chair facing out, almost as if he were inviting the local beat writers to start asking questions.
On most nights when a hitter goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a game his team lost, the player is not in any mood to talk. Gonzalez, who has not hit a home run since April 17, a span of 103 at-bats, stepped into the box at two critical situations where he could have produced on Wednesday, but came up short.
First, he flied out to right field with two runners on in the top of the first. Then, with the Sox trailing 2-1 with two outs in the top of the eight, Gonzalez struck out swinging.
The third strike in the eighth didn't concern Gonzalez, but the first pitch of the at-bat did. It was clearly outside the zone, but home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a strike.
"I do have a question," Gonzalez said. "How are you supposed to have a professional at-bat with these umpires nowadays? Gosh. The first pitch in my last at-bat wasn't even close. You're up there, trying to have a professional at-bat and look for a pitch to hit and that's called?
"So it puts you in swing mode, the guy throws a good split and all of a sudden you're 0-2. It should have been 1-0 and then he probably doesn't throw a split. Unbelievable.
"In that at-bat I went up there looking for a fastball middle away. I got a fastball way away. You can't swing if it's not a strike. You're looking for a pitch middle away, and it's away and you know you can't swing because it's off and you're 0-1."
Gonzalez, who is currently hitting .279 with two homers and 20 RBIs, also went 0-for-3 in Boston's 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday at Fenway Park and he wasn't happy about the calls in that game either.
"[Tuesday] there were a couple of pitches that weren't close and they were called strikes," Gonzalez said. "It put me behind two strikes and then you've got to protect. It's unfortunate because you wish you could keep them on the plate and force them to come in, but that doesn't happen anymore."
Gonzalez said he's not the type of player to complain directly to the umpire during a game, but it was evident with his postgame comments that he's not happy with the men in blue.
"It doesn't do any good," he said. "You want to say something, but then it starts getting into your head then it messes with your at-bat and your approach and what you're trying to do. If I get thrown out, I'm the one who gets punished for it. It's not him for not making the right call."
Gonzalez doesn't believe umpiring has been an ongoing situation all season.
"No, not every time," Gonzalez said. "It's just at times. When they're good, you can be comfortable up there. You know what the strike zone is. But when they're not, you've got to go up there and hack. It's frustrating."
Gonzalez's comments will appear to be typical of a player in a slump blaming the ump. But teammate David Ortiz, who is hitting .345 with eight homers and 27 RBIs, agrees with Gonzalez's assessment.
"It's crazy, man," Ortiz said. "Sometimes it happens when you're trying to put together a good at-bat in that situation and you get those bad calls once in a while. It's tough. It's crazy how it goes sometimes when you're in a tough situation and you're trying to put a good at-bat together and next thing you know, one pitch can get you out of your at-bat. It changes your mind. It changes your approach."
When asked if his frustration stems from the fact that his power numbers are down, Gonzalez said, "No. I'll start hitting home runs. I'll hit a homer tomorrow."
Gonzalez made a similar statement last season and made good on his prediction.
Ortiz said he's not worried about Gonzalez's lack of power so far this season, and was pleased to hear about the prediction for a long ball in Thursday's game.
"Good," Ortiz said with a laugh. "That's good stuff. I can't wait. I know my piñata killer is going to be fine. I've got money on him. I've got money on the killer because I know that piñata at some point is going to drop down."
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