Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 5, Phillies 0: It’s getting close to the time for us to break out all of that “we are all witnesses” kind of hyperbole for Matt Harvey. Not that it’s really hyperbole. He’s simply toying with hitters at this point, throwing ungodly stuff in just about every count. Seven innings, three hits, ten strikeouts, no walks and if it wasn’t for the heat he wouldn’t have broken a sweat.

Brewers 1, Marlins 0: Caleb Gindl with the walkoff homer in the 13th. Not gonna lie: never heard of that dude before I clicked this box score. If you had asked me who Caleb Gindel was yesterday afternoon I would’ve guessed that he was lawful-good ranger in some D&D campaign involving some high school kids which has been going on for about a year or so. The kid who plays the ranger isn’t that into it, but he’s crushing hard on the girl who plays the halfling magic user so he plays every week. Sad part for poor Caleb is that no matter how much he tries to protect her, she’s really into the DM. You know, that kid who just got big into Society for Creative Anachronism and is making his own armor and stuff? And the worst part is, that kid sees all of this and tailors the campaign in such a way as to make Caleb look like a yutz at every turn. And he’s not even into the halfling! He’s just being a dick. All I’m saying is that it’s complicated. And that, um, I have no experience with anything like this whatsoever. Nope. Anyway: it’s now been 11 days since I’ve written an ATH in which I had to put a number next to the Marlins score. OK, that’s a bit misleading as they did score runs during the weekend before the All-Star break, but man, they are rolling 1s and 2s when attacking and are missing all of their saving throws.

Rays 4, Blue Jays 3: A three game sweep for the Rays whose roll was not disrupted by the All-Star break one bit. Homers for Luke Scott, Evan Longoria and Kelly Johnson. Tampa Bay has won 13 of 14 and now face the Sox with first place in the AL East on the line.

White Sox 3, Braves 1: Lots of leather here. Casper Wells robbed Reed Johnson of a homer in the eighth. Jeff Keppinger had a diving stop. Johnson smacked a liner that was snagged by Alexi Ramirez, who doubled off Brian McCann. Tons of missed chances and stranded runners for the Braves. Tons of nice plays for the Sox, who took two of three.

Pirates 3, Reds 2: Weird aggregate pitching lines: Pirates pitchers allowed only three hits but they walked seven. Meanwhile Homer Bailey struck out 12 in six and a third yet got the loss. It’s the last time the Reds and Pirates meet until September. They finish the year playing six of their last nine against each other.

Tigers 4, Royals 1: I watched Miguel Cabrera hit his first inning homer off James Shields. It’s cute how pitchers think they can bust him inside. But you know what? You really can’t. He just pulls his hands in and jacks that mother. There’s really no one like him in that regard in the game right now. Tigers avoid the sweep.

Dodgers 9, Nationals 2: Matt Kemp came back off the DL, kicked some butt, hitting a homer, a double and driving in three, got hurt on the base paths and my guess is that he’ll go back on the DL. I imagine 50 years from now they’ll be calling that “pulling a Matt Kemp.” Dodgers sweep the Nats.

Indians 7, Twins 1: Justin Masterson took a no-hitter into the seventh, having faced the minimum (his one baserunner was a hit batsmaen who was then caught stealing). A bloop single broke it up but such is the way of the world.

Mariners 12, Astros 5: The M’s are hot, having won six in a row. Nick Franklin hit a grand slam and Felix Hernandez did Felix Hernandez things (6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 7K).

Cardinals 3, Padres 2: Adam Wainwright went eight innings and picked up his 13th win. I looked at the box score for this game and noticed that the lineup Mike Matheny used yesterday had OBP’s of .399, .384, .376, .346, .359 in the 1-5 slots.

Athletics 6, Angels 0: Per ESPN: Bartolo Colon is the first pitcher over the age of 40 to have more than one shutout in a season since Randy Johnson did it in 2004. Per a Twitter search for “Bartlo Colon steroids” people on Twitter aren’t all that impressed. No matter: dude is on pace for 21 wins and 225 innings pitched.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1: The Dbacks avoid the sweep — holding off an error-and-infield-single-driven would-be ninth inning rally by the Giants — and just barely hold on to their lead in the NL West.

Rockies 4, Cubs 3: Tyler Chatwood tossed six decent innings. Nolan Arenado drove in the go-ahead run on a sixth inning single and an insurance run scored on the same play via a throwing error.

Orioles 4 vs. Rangers 2: I talked to Chris Tillman for a bit at the All-Star Game. No other media member was talking to him. I asked him if he was cool with more or less being ignored. He said “Yep, that’s good for me. I like it that way just fine.” Here he allowed two runs in eight innings and got the win. And probably had to answer questions about that from the press, the poor sod.

Red Sox 8, Yankees 7: Mike Napoli with a walkoff homer in the 11th. It was bookended with his three-run shot in the third. The Yankees can take a moral victory away having scored seven runs, right? No? Eh, well, OK. But it was something seeing them score seven runs.

The idiocy of baseball’s replay system was on full display in St. Louis last night

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals scores the game-winning run against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Baseball’s current instant replay system, in place since the beginning of the 2014 season, has experienced hiccups, but it has generally avoided extreme controversy or high profile failures. Last night in St. Louis, however, the replay system failed in spectacular fashion, potentially costing a team a playoff berth.

We wrote about the play last night: bottom of the ninth in a tied Reds-Cardinals game, Matt Carpenter on first base, Yadier Molina at the plate. Molina hits a ball which should’ve been a ground rule double, halting Carpenter at third. The umpires missed the ball bouncing out of play, however, and Carpenter was allowed to run home, scoring the winning run. Due to the noise and confusion of the Cardinals’ apparent walkoff win, Reds manager Bryan Price could not hear the phone call from his video coordinator telling him to challenge the play. By the time the message got to Price, he was told his challenge was too late. Game over.

The lack of a replay review in that situation was huge. The call would’ve, without question, been overturned if it were reviewed. If that had occurred, there is a possibility that the Cardinals would’ve lost that game, putting them two games back of the Giants with three to play. Instead, they were gifted a win and are now one game back with three to play. At the very least, this will cause the Giants to have to play one more meaningful game this weekend than they might’ve otherwise had to, in turn giving them one less game to rest players and set up their pitching staff for the Wild Card game. It could also, of course, prove to be the difference between them making the Wild Card game and going home after Sunday’s finale against the Dodgers.

If this comes to pass, Major League Baseball will no doubt characterize Thursday night’s events as a freak occurrence. Just one of those things that you could never predict and thus could never prepare for. If you don’t buy that they’ll admonish you that this outcome would’ve occurred the same way had it happened before replay was instituted in 2014 and, hey, we’re doing the best we can. If you’re still not satisfied, baseball will ignore you and pivot to the fans who care less about it, casting the replay failure as a charming and memorable historical event, a la Merkle’s Boner, the Pine Tar Game or Don Dekinger’s blown call at first base in the 1985 World Series. One which, however bad it seemed at the time, is poised to become just another chapter in baseball’s grand history, ready for highlight reels and preroll ad-sponsored video clips. Baseball will turn the page on this, so why can’t you?

Don’t buy any of that. Not for a second. Don’t buy the notion that this was some sort of freak play because freak plays are, by definition, unforeseeable. And while the narrow specifics of last night’s replay failure in St. Louis may not have been predicted, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of instant replay as implemented were foreseeable from the moment baseball idiotically decided to use a challenge system to initiate replay reviews.

We sharply criticized the use of a challenge system for instant replay in baseball at the time it was adopted in August 2013. Indeed, we sharply criticized a challenge system almost a year earlier when it was merely suspected that baseball would go in that direction with all of this. The reasons were pretty straightforward. Conceptually speaking, it should not be the responsibility of managers to correct the mistakes or oversights of umpires on the field, which is what a challenge system requires. Moreover, a challenge system, and its rules limiting the number and manner of challenges, subordinates getting the call right to strategy and gamesmanship with respect to when and how to use the arbitrary number of challenges granted, and that makes zero sense when the point is to simply correct mistakes.

The problems with a challenge system were not all conceptual, however. Some were practical. In January 2013, Mike Port, who served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of umpiring between 2005 and 2011, talked about how managers were the weak link in a challenge system, saying “you would be amazed how many managers, coaches, and players are not conversant with the rules.” He might’ve added, as others have, that managers cannot possibly see everything that happens on the field from their vantage point, including balls hit to the boundaries. As a result, the notion that a manager can always instantly and knowledgeably pop out of the dugout to challenge a call is unrealistic. He’s going to need some help.

Which is why every team hired a video coordinator, sitting in the clubhouse watching the plays, ready to call the manager in order to tell him when to challenge and when not to. This arrangement solved one problem — the manager’s inability to see it all — but created others. For one thing, it creates potential inefficiencies and inequalities, with some clubs inevitably having more savvy or highly-skilled coordinators, giving them an edge that fair and impartial umpiring would never have created. For another, it necessitated the use of technology — video and phone lines — and technology can always fail. Just as it did last night when Bryan Price’s phone could not be heard over the roar of the crowd in a pre-playoff frenzy.

It was a technological failure that last night’s crew chief, Bill Miller, implied could’ve been fixed if Price had “made eye contact” or something but, hey, he didn’t, so the game was over. When baseball first announced the challenge system in 2013, John Schuerholz, tasked with defending it, said that it would create “a happy balance that will retain the uniqueness and charm of baseball.” I suppose there’s something “charming” about the need for a major league manager to have to gaze into the eyes of an umpire in order to get a blown call corrected, but one would hope that, in 2016, there are better ways to handle things.

Of course it was obvious that there were better ways to handle it in 2013 when Major League Baseball came up with this dumb system. Baseball’s managers, who did not want a challenge system, knew it. Baseball’s former umpire chief knew it. Even dumb bloggers in their mother’s basement knew it. In 2013, baseball had carte blanche and the support of everyone in the game to institute a system that got calls right. They chose, however, to go with a system that, by definition, does not have getting calls right as its sole objective and by necessity limits the ability for calls to be reviewed in the first place due to managers not being omniscient and omnipresent and due to technological limitations.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of an answered phone call, a playoff spot might be too. It never had to be this way, but baseball wanted it this way. If the Giants end up sitting at home next week rather than playing the Mets in a Wild Card game, I’m pretty sure they won’t be comforted by whatever baloney Major League Baseball dishes out to tell everyone why this is all OK.

Cardinals walk off on controversial double by Yadier Molina

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after he was called out on strike against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the six inning at AT&T Park on September 15, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Update (11:09 PM EDT):

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From unlucky to lucky, the Cardinals maintained their position in the National League Wild Card race with walk-off victory over the Reds on Thursday night.

The Cardinals went into the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead over the Reds, but saw the game tied when Scott Schebler dribbled a two-strike, two out ground ball down the third base line. It seemed as if the baseball gods had turned their backs on the Cardinals.

In the bottom of the ninth against reliever Blake Wood, Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk. Randal Grichuk then struck out, leaving all of the Cardinals’ hopes on Yadier Molina. Molina went ahead 2-0 in the count, then ripped a 95 MPH fastball to left field. The ball bounced high and over the left field fence for what seemed like an obvious ground-rule double. Carpenter motored around third base and scored the winning run.

The Cardinals poured onto the field in celebration and the umpires walked off the field. Manager Bryan Price wanted to have the play reviewed, but when he went onto the field, the umpires were nowhere to be found. Price chased after them but to no avail. As the Cardinals left the field and the stadium emptied, the Reds remained in the dugout. The Reds’ relievers were left in a bit of purgatory, standing aimlessly in left field after exiting the bullpen. Finally, the game was announced as complete over the P.A. system at Busch Stadium. The results are great if you’re a Cardinals fan, but terrible if you’re a Mets or Giants fan.

As Jon Morosi points out, the rules clearly state that the signage above the fence in left field is out of the field of play. The umpires got it wrong.

Price, however, also took too long to speak to the umpires. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

If this happened between two teams playing a meaningless game, it would’ve been a lot easier to swallow, but Thursday’s Reds-Cardinals game had implications on not only the Cardinals’ future, but the Mets’ and Giants’ as well.