What they’re saying about the Jerry Meals call

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If you’re just waking up to it now, know that home plate umpire Jerry Meals made one of the worst calls you’ll ever see in a baseball game early this morning, calling Julio Lugo safe at home in the bottom of the 19th inning of the Pirates-Braves game, handing Atlanta the win.  The photo to the right is the best one I’ve seen.

Not that there’s a ton of room for analysis or debate here. It was a pure blown call. The ump admitted it himself after the game. I went back and watched the replay from the Braves telecast and even Chip Caray and Joe Simpson — two of the biggest homers you’ll ever hear in a broadcast booth — couldn’t spin it, nor did they even try. So all we’re left with is reaction.

Now, normally when we troll reaction of a big baseball event with a “what they’re saying about …” post, we go with what pundits and bloggers write.  This time it seems that the immediacy of the moment captures it better than any sober reflection will, so I’m going with the instant reactions from my Twitter feed:

  • Buster_ESPN: If there was ever an argument for five-man umpiring crews–with one in the booth, overseeing replay to correct mistakes– it was just made.
  • Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens, via the tweet of LangoschMLB: “”For some reason, somebody didn’t want us to play anymore. So the game was ended.”
  • BizballMaury: Sun was in his eyes (I think Maury may be offering a touch of sarcasm here)
  • Maholm28: Unbelievable game. I have never seen anything like it. Thats all I got (yes, that’s Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm)
  • SeanEP1: Other 3 umpires looked like they wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.
  • edrainey: I hear Jerry Meals has missed some time this year while serving on the Casey Anthony jury. May be why he is rusty. (Ooooh, ouch)
  • dodgerthoughts: When does the Jerry Meals-Daniel McCutchen book come out?
  • nvasconcelos: I’m just glad the human element of umpiring is preserved. That’s the important thing.
  • joe_sheehan: McKenry tagged Lugo on the leg and then the arm. Maybe Meals figured they canceled each other out.
  • 4Who4What: I can name 5 bad umpires before I can even think of 1 good one. The ineptitude is amazing.
  • DaleMurphy3 (yes, that’s the real Dale Murphy): On ‘swipe’ tags you usually see guys called out when they aren’t tagged, seldom do you see a guy get tagged, and then be called safe…weird
  • allenw111:  give me robot umpires, please…instant replay for all plays, I don’t care if it makes every game 4 hours long
  • keithlaw: Holy …

Note: If you can render Keith Law mostly speechless, you know you’ve done something monumental.

Instant. Replay. Now.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.