Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine’s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
Every umpire has a different strike zone. That's a given. One of the beautiful things about baseball is the human element of the strike zone, and it's largely the reason you won't soon see any television feed pitch location tracker — or Major League Baseball's similar QuesTec, which is used to review umpires — replacing the men in blue behind the dish.
But there is one thing players demand from their home plate umpire, and that's consistency. That was the very attribute the Red Sox clearly felt was lacking from balls-and-strikes-calling umpires Alan Porter (Sunday), Dana Demuth (Saturday) and Doug Eddings (Friday) over this weekend's series. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was unequivocal in his evaluation of the crew.
"It's not right," Valentine said. "Good umpires had a real bad series this series — real bad series. And it went one way. There should be a review."
If there is ever a good time, as manager, to get yourself ejected from a game, Valentine certainly found it in the ninth inning Sunday. And he was absolutely right to stand up for his players, who felt they had to play guesswork with the strike zone the entire series. Contrary to his reputation as the anti-player's manager, Valentine did well in protecting Dustin Pedroia and the rest of the Sox hitters.
But waffling strike zone or no, the Red Sox still failed to do something they're going to have to (and have failed to thus far) if they expect to jump past the .500 mark and move beyond the middling baseball they've been playing: hit good pitching. There's no question that the Nationals have an exemplary rotation. A 1-2-3 punch of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann can match up with any in baseball, and it's always a tall order to have to draw them in a three-game set.
That being said, the Red Sox looked completely overmatched this weekend, and it wasn't just the strike zone. Except for perhaps David Ortiz, no one in the Red Sox lineup looked completely comfortable in the batter's box over the past three games. Beyond the number of borderline pitches the Nats seemed to get (and Red Sox pitchers seemed not to), the Red Sox hitters were largely at the mercy of Strasburg's power curveball, Gonzalez' slider and Zimmermann's supposedly developing changeup.
Ultimately, however, if the Red Sox expect to be an elite team going forward, they're going to have to hit elite pitchers. They certainly saw three of those this weekend, loose strike zone or not.