Marlon Byrd and Vicente Padilla were teammates in Texas last year and when the Rangers released Padilla at midseason Byrd was very outspoken in praise of the move, saying:
About time. It’s absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive and I believe this is a huge positive. You have to be a good teammate. You have to help teach younger guys the right things. He wasn’t a positive influence on the young guys. You started questioning his character and about how much he cared.
Fast forward to a year later. Byrd is on the Cubs and Padilla is on the Dodgers, and they faced each other in the seventh inning of a blowout game last night. As you might have guessed Padilla plunked Byrd in the back, which is amusing given that part of Byrd’s problem with Padilla came from his tendency to hit batters and put his teammates in danger of retaliation.
Which is exactly what happened last night, as Byrd’s new teammate Andrew Cashner responded to Padilla plunking him by plunking Dodgers second baseman Blake DeWitt in the next inning. Oddly enough, Byrd didn’t have much problem with that, calling Cashner “a great teammate” and coyly talking about his “pinpoint accuracy” to make it clear the pitch had a purpose.
Cashner received high-fives in the dugout afterward and despite losing 7-0 the Cubs’ clubhouse was reportedly full of congratulations for rookie. Or as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune put it: “Happiest losing clubhouse in Cubs history.”
And in a fibbing contest, Cashner claimed the pitch to DeWitt simply “slipped” while Padilla claimed he never saw Byrd’s original quotes because “I don’t really read the papers.”
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.