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Things get heated for Dodgers, not against Yankees, but umpire

June 26, 2010 |  7:17 am

Loney_300 All that emotion. All those fireworks, the tempers.

Not Dodgers vs. Yankees.

Dodgers vs. Phil Cuzzi.

Perhaps you’re wondering: Who is Phil Cuzzi? He would be the umpire who suddenly had an expanded strike zone in the bottom of the ninth, and then when tempers flared, would not just get his butt off the field.

He left James Loney scratching his head. He left Manager Joe Torre, in a rare moment, all but calling him out.

Mariano Rivera struck out Loney to end Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Yankees on three called strikes. The first two are what you might call border-line calls.

"Mariano, I can tell you from experience, doesn’t need any help," Torre said. "I thought that Phil Cuzzi called a couple of pitches that were terrible."

These days umpires call anything above the navel a ball. Cuzzi had not established an unusually high strike zone Friday when Loney took a fastball near the letters.

When Cuzzi called it a strike, Loney looked at him in bewilderment. Then came the second strike, which appeared below the knees. Now that’s a serious strike zone.

"I don’t know what his deal is," Loney said. "It looked like he was ready to leave or something."

Loney was called out on a third strike, which is when Cuzzi should have just turned and walked off. Not even close.

He walked off side-by-side with Loney until he heard something he did not like and ejected him.

"Why would you even eject somebody when the game is over?" Loney said. "It pretty much makes no sense."

Umpires exit the field next to the Dodgers' dugout. As Cuzzi walked to the edge of the dugout, several Dodgers were yelling at him. Matt Kemp, hitting coach Don Mattingly, Loney all upset at that moment.

And still Cuzzi wouldn’t walk away. He actually stopped and started pointing at Dodgers.

"No, he had to throw a few other people out," Torre said. "The startled look that he gave us was surprising, 'How dare you question those calls.'

"I don’t complain to umpires, but I thought that was close to embarrassing making those types of calls."

Torre, of course, knows Rivera well and wasn’t maintaining the questionable calls would have made a difference in the game’s outcome. The bases were empty when Loney struck out.

"It was a good game, I’m just sorry it had to end like that because I don’t think James had a chance in that last at-bat,’’ he said.

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers first baseman James Loney tosses his bat aside and prepares to flip his batting helmet after striking out to end a 2-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night. Credit: Mike Nelson / EPA