Texas Rangers right-hander Jose Leclerc didn't hesitate when asked if a pitch he threw in the eighth inning should've led to a strikeout instead of a walk.
"Yes, it was [a strike]," Leclerc said. "I saw it on the video, but I can do nothing about it."
That pitch sent the Rangers on a downward spiral, as they blew a two-run lead and wasted Doug Fister's best start of the season in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox, the worst team in the majors.
The questionable call came with the Rangers leading 2-1 with two outs in the eighth. Leclerc had a 3-2 count against Nicky Delmonico and threw a pitch that appeared to be knee-level in the strike zone.
But home-plate umpire Paul Nauert ruled it a ball, which loaded the bases. Leclerc then walked Matt Davidson to bring in the game-tying run and manager Jeff Banister made a pitching change. After signaling the bullpen, Banister made a beeline to Nauert and was ejected for the first time this season.
"I knew I was thrown out before I even turned," Banister said. "I’ll fight for my guy. I’ll fight for what I thought was right. And, listen, I still feel the same way."
Asked why he waited a batter before confronting Nauert, Banister said: "Well, not the appropriate time to go out there at that time."
Banister made it clear that he didn't "bite his tongue," saying: "I voiced my displeasure well before I went out to make a pitching change."
Before that call, though, Leclerc had a chance to get out of the inning. He committed a throwing error on a comebacker by Yolmer Sanchez.
"Maybe I tried to get a little bit quick," Leclerc said of the throwing error.
Either way, that pitch changed the entire game. The White Sox ended up scoring four unearned runs in the inning to win the opener of a four-game series.
Here is more Rangers reactions --
▪ As stated, Fister pitched his best game of the season. He went seven scoreless innings, retiring 13 of the last 16 batters he faced. He worked out of trouble early on as the leadoff man reached each of the first three innings.
Fister felt good about the start, but said he is always fine-tuning things. He also had no complaints about being pulled after a 1-2-3 seventh.
▪ Left-hander Matt Moore will start Friday night, Banister said. Cole Hamels is dealing with neck stiffness and likely won't be ready to go until Saturday, at the earliest. If the Rangers opt to put Hamels on the disabled list, they could call up Austin Bibens-Dirkx from Triple A Round Rock to start Saturday.
▪ On a lighter note, Banister impressed in his pre-game news conference when he rattled off some rather obscure statistics. It all started when Banister addressed Rougned Odor’s bunt single from Wednesday’s game.
It marked Odor’s first bunt hit of the season, something that Banister would like to see the second baseman implement more.
"Bunting is always an option for him," Banister said. "I believe he had 12 attempts last year and 19 attempts in '16."
Odor converted those attempts into four hits last year, and nine in 2016. But the more surprising thing may be Banister knowing those numbers off the top of his head.
Banister rattled off a few more stats from his days working in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system such as Mike Asche stealing 22 consecutive bases in two straight years in 1995 and 1996, and Derek Swafford having 33 doubles in that same stretch.
"In this seat, you know pretty much what your guys do all the time," Banister said, smiling. "It's just … part of the stupidity of my brain."