By STEPHEN HAWKINS, Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — While Joe Nathan was accepting congratulations from Texas Rangers teammates for his 300th career save, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was arguing with umpires about the final strike before they left the field.
The home-plate umpire later admitted Maddon was right.
Despite umpire Marty Foster's postgame admission, Nathan still had his milestone save after a 5-4 Rangers victory Monday night that ended on a curveball that was low and outside.
"I saw the pitch and of course don't have the chance to do it again," Foster told a pool reporter after the game. "But had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike."
After Ben Zobrist took the full-count pitch, he started toward first base and even Nathan appeared to anticipate a ball being called. But Foster called strike three.
Zobrist put both hands on his helmet and took it off in disbelief. Maddon argued with Foster and the other umpires for several minutes after the game ended.
Soon after that Maddon tweeted, "That can't happen in a major league game."
When talking to reporters after the game, Maddon said he "saw it clearly" when it happened, but looked at a replay afterward "to reaffirm what I'd seen. Again, it just can't happen in a Major League Baseball game."
Foster said Maddon was very professional.
"He was frustrated and I understand," Foster said. "He acted probably the best he can under that situation."
Umpire crew chief Tim Welke indicated that he didn't foresee a scenario in which Maddon would be disciplined.
Nathan had allowed an RBI single to Sean Rodriguez, who was still on base when the game ended to make Nathan the 24th major leaguer with 300 saves.
"Fortunately I got a decent call there at the end. I've seen plenty go the other way," Nathan said. "The umpires have a tough job too. He's back there for three hours, seeing a lot of pitches. I've seen plenty of close calls go against us.
"I threw the pitch where I wanted to. He didn't offer like I thought he was going to," Nathan said. "It's pretty safe to say we got a very fortunate call there, but we'll take it."
A.J. Pierzynski, the new Rangers catcher who was once traded for Nathan, said he heard the umpire call strike three, and went out to congratulate his teammate.
"Umpires make mistakes just like players do. It was a tough time to have a bad call," Zobrist said.
When asked about the game's last pitch, Rangers manager Ron Washington said, "We won the game, of course I liked it."
Asked if he had seen a replay, he responded, "No, not interested."
After Pierzynski's first homer for Texas, a two-out solo shot in the fourth that made it 2-1, Mitch Moreland pulled a 428-foot shot deep into the Texas bullpen in right-center field.
Elvis Andrus, in a 2-for-18 slide before singling in the fifth, added a two-run single in the Rangers seventh for a 5-1 lead.
Alexi Ogando (2-0) allowed only one run on three hits, but needed 89 pitches to get through 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander walked three and struck out two five days after getting a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings at Houston.
Jeremy Hellickson (0-1), starting on his 26th birthday, gave up three runs and five hits over five innings. He needed 30 pitches to get out of the first, including a nine-pitch leadoff walk by Ian Kinsler, and threw 98 pitches overall.
Texas was leading 1-0 in the first when Lance Berkman scored from first base on Adrian Beltre's two-out bloop double. Left fielder Sam Fuld made a diving attempt to catch the ball, which instead went under his glove and rolled behind him.
Tampa Bay got even in the second. Evan Longoria drew a leadoff walk and scored when second baseman Kinsler made a throwing error trying to complete a double play. Right fielder Nelson Cruz made a running, over-the-shoulder catch later in the inning to prevent a run.
Longoria was 3 for 3, all singles, including one in the eighth when the Rays loaded the bases and scored twice. He is hitting .417 (10 of 24) with only singles. This is the furthest he's gone into a season without a home run. He was on deck when the game ended.
Ogando, an All-Star starter in 2011 before working out of the bullpen last season, got into the sixth before walking Zobrist and giving up another single to Longoria.
Joe Ortiz, the 22-year-old rookie lefty who is only 5-foot-7, got out of that jam with a pair of grounders and then worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
NOTES: Hellickson pitched on his birthday for the second year in a row. On his 25th birthday, his 2012 debut, he pitched 8 2-3 scoreless innings in the Rays' 3-0 win over the New York Yankees. ... Pierzynski became the seventh different player to homer for the Rangers in their seven games. ... Beltre, the Gold Glove-winning third baseman, started the game with a standout play. He was up on the grass when Desmond Jennings hit a shot down the line. Beltre dove at an angle going backward to make a backhanded stab, then got up and threw out the leadoff hitter. ... Tampa Bay's first error of the season came in the second when 2B Zobrist was unable to snag Pierzynski's grounder. ... Nick Tepesch, a 24-year-old right-hander, will be called up for the Rangers to start in his major league debut Tuesday.
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