ST. PETERSBURG -- Jerry Meals has a fan in Joe Maddon, and not just because Meals' missed call helped Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays vault back into first place.
The home plate umpire Monday during the Rays' 2-1 over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Meals called Boston's Daniel Nava out in the bottom of the eighth when replays showed Nava got in under catcher Jose Molina's tag. Nava was trying to score on a flyout to left.
The win put Tampa Bay a half game ahead of Boston in the American League East. Meals told a pool reporter after the game he made the wrong call.
"Jerry Meals, with the way he handled all that, I have all the respect in the world for him," Maddon said Tuesday at Tropicana Field before the Rays' game with the Arizona Diamondbacks. "When an umpire steps up and faces it like that and says what he said, I mean it, sincerely, my respect for him has jumped from that particular moment.
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"If it was replayed, it probably would have been reversed. Understood. But beyond all that, we've had a lot of close calls go against us. Sometimes a call goes for you; it's part of the game. But more than anything, the thing I've learned from this is the respect that I got for Jerry Meals."
Maddon praised Molina's positioning on the play, as well as the throw from leftfielder Sam Fuld.
"That's just good baseball," Maddon said.
What about David?
Maddon blamed himself for how he handled David Price on Monday, when he sent the lefty out for one batter in the bottom of the eighth following a 38-minute rain delay.
Price struck out Jonny Gomes and was pulled for Joel Peralta, who allowed a pair of doubles but still preserved the Rays' one-run lead.
Fernando Rodney pitched around a walk and a hit in the ninth to secure his 26th save.
"I just watched him warm up, and I didn't like the way he was warming up at all," Maddon said of Price, who went 3-0 on the team's 10-game road trip and beat the Red Sox twice at Fenway Park in the span of a week. "And I thought Jon Gomes had better swings against him at that at-bat than he had in that game and in the previous game combined, and that also set off a red light for me.
"Those are those tough moments, man, where there is no page in the book that indicates this is what you should in that moment."
Maddon said he had "trepidations" during the rain delay about sending Price back out. He allowed a run on two hits and struck out eight over the first seven innings before the delay.
"Everybody was so convincing," Maddon said, "that I thought maybe I was wrong."
Hellickson study hall
Having never faced the Diamondbacks before in his career, Jeremy Hellickson planned on paying close attention Tuesday night to see how Rays starter Roberto Hernandez handled Arizona's hitters.
Hellickson (10-3, 4.48 ERA) is Wednesday's scheduled starter.
"Watch a little video, talk to Hick (pitching coach Jim Hickey) today and watch Roberto tonight," said Hellickson, 1-3 with 6.41 ERA in seven interleague starts, "and see how he goes about it."