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Red Sox’ frustration mounts as they’re swept away by Nationals

06.10.12 at 8:10 pm ET
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Bobby Valentine argues with umpire Al Porter after being ejected in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. (AP)

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was ejected for the second time this season Sunday, as frustration levels continued to rise for Boston as the Nationals finished off a three-game sweep with a 4-3 decision. The Red Sox now have lost six out of their last seven games and are two games under .500 (29-31). They’re in the basement of the AL East, six games behind division-leading Tampa Bay.

With the Sox trailing by a run and two outs in the ninth, Dustin Pedroia watched a 1-1 offering from Tyler Clippard sail by for a questionable called strike, which angered  Valentine. After an explosion from Valentine, home plate umpire Al Porter tossed the skipper. That led to an argument between Valentine and Porter, one that ended with Valentine leaving with an ovation from the Fenway crowd before Pedroia struck out to end the game.

After the game, Valentine had some more words for Porter and the umpiring crew, and said his frustration was a result of an accumulation of questionable calls throughout the game (including a pitch called a ball in the top of the ninth from Alfredo Aceves that Valentine thought was a strike). That call was followed by the game-winning RBI the Red Sox couldn’t recover from.

“We’ve got guys trying to bust their butt, battling their butt off. It’s just not right,” said Valentine, who was ejected for the 39th time as a big league manager. “Good umpires had a real bad series this series — real bad series. And it went one way. There should be a review.”

Asked if the questionable calls affected his players’ willingness to swing at pitches they normally wouldn’t bite on, Valentine offered a fundamental answer.

“The game is simple. Throw over the plate, call it a strike. Don’t throw it over the plate, call it a ball. It’s simple,” Valentine said. “That’s all anybody asks. And I know it’s been going on for 100 years, I’m not the first one to say it, but this was a pretty lousy series.”

Jon Lester delivered a strong performance, throwing seven innings and striking out a season-high nine hitters, but did not factor in the decision after Danny Espinosa’s fly ball to left bounced off the wall, just past the outstretched glove of Darnell McDonald. It scored two runs and gave the Nationals a 3-2 advantage in the seventh. It was Lester’s third consecutive no-decision — the Red Sox have lost three out of the last four games that the southpaw has started.

Lester wasn’t upset with missed calls like Valentine, but when asked about the mood in the clubhouse, the lefty vented about the overall struggles of the team.

“Everyone cares. Nobody’s been in this situation here, nobody’s lost before like this,” Lester said. “It’s all new. I’m sure I can speak for myself — it aggravates the piss out of me. I hate going out there and losing, regardless if I’m pitching or not. I know guys down there are frustrated and rightly so. It sounds cliché and I keep saying it, but we keep grinding out at-bats, we keep grinding out starts and something’s got to give.

“Our effort’s there, the will is there, the execution is there. Today, a 300-foot fly ball was the difference in the game. It’s bad luck in some games, it’s playing bad in other games, it’s pitching bad, it’s not playing good defense. Whatever it is, it just seems to come back and bite us in the butt. … The biggest thing is nobody in that clubhouse is giving up. Everybody shows up and prepares the same way [whether] we’re in first place by 10 games. We just have to keep sticking to that approach and it has to change.”

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