Just as Roy Oswalt’s 1-1 pitch crossed the plate in the bottom of the fifth of Wednesday’s NLDS Game 4, a squirrel took off through the batter’s box, racing from the Cardinals dugout area across the field into the stands down the third-base line.
And Angel Hernandez was so distracted by the scene that he neglected to notice that Roy Oswalt had fired a strike.
The pitch was allowed to stand, but what was pretty clearly a strike on the inside corner was instead ruled a ball by Hernandez. Oswalt was upset initially because he thought Hernandez had ruled a dead ball; by the time he learned he was behind 2-1 in the count, he was clearly infuriated. After a discussion with Hernandez between the mound and the plate, he turned his head, mouthed “wow” and promptly got Skip Schumaker to hit a flyout to center for the second out of the inning.
Perhaps there are a few who still miss the slope of Tal’s Hill rising from center field, but George Springer isn’t one of them. He lassoed a 403-foot fly ball from Todd Frazier in the seventh inning of Game 6, reaching nearly to the top of the wall to prevent the Yankees from gaining on the Astros’ 3-0 lead.
According to Statcast, a fly ball with an exit velocity of 103.6 MPH and a launch angle of 29 degrees lands for a home run 72% of the time. That wasn’t going to fly with the Astros, who were facing runners on first and second with one out and saw Justin Verlander‘s pitch count rapidly approaching 100.
It wasn’t long before the Yankees tried for another home run, however, and this one sailed far above the heads of all of the Astros’ outfielders. Aaron Judge lofted a 425-foot shot to left field in the eighth inning, destroying a first-pitch fastball from Brad Peacock and finally getting New York on the board.
The Yankees currently trail the Astros 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth.