Jayson Werth AP

Jayson Werth delivers walkoff homer vs. Cardinals to force a Game 5 in NLDS

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We’re going to have yet another Game 5 in this already thrilling postseason.

Jayson Werth clubbed a walkoff solo homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning this evening to power the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS. It forces a fifth and deciding game in the series tomorrow night in Washington, D.C.

The home run came on the 14th pitch of an intense duel with Lance Lynn where Werth battled back from 0-2 and fouled off a number of tough pitches. But he eventually found a pitch to his liking and put it over the left field fence and into the bullpen for the first playoff win in Washington, D.C. since 1933.

Ross Detwiler allowed an unearned run over six six innings before Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen combined for three innings of shutout relief. Eight of the nine outs recorded by the trio were via the strikeout, though they did get some help from a very questionable strike zone from home plate umpire Jim Joyce. Pete Kozma drew a walk with two outs in the top of the ninth and likely would have scored on a bloop into shallow left field off the bat of Matt Carpenter, but Ian Desmond was able to chase it down while making an impressive over-the-shoulder catch.

Kyle Lohse was very solid in a no-decision, allowing just one run on two hits and walk over 7 2/3 innings. His only mistake was a solo home run by Adam LaRoche in the second inning, but he simply didn’t get enough help from his offense on this day.

We’ll get a rematch from Game 1 tomorrow night, as Adam Wainwright will get the call for the Cardinals and Gio Gonzalez will pitch for the Nationals.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: