Cody Ross is back from the disabled list and batting cleanup for San Francisco this afternoon, and to make room on the roster the Giants have optioned top prospect Brandon Belt back to Triple-A.
Belt played regularly after somewhat surprisingly making the team out of spring training, starting 13 of 17 games, but he hit just .192 with one homer and a .569 OPS in 60 plate appearances and in order to get him into the lineup the Giants had to weaken the outfield defense with Aubrey Huff in right field.
That’s going to remain an issue whenever Belt returns, because Huff is under contract for $10 million next season and has a $10 million option or $2 million buyout for 2013, but the 23-year-old Belt can benefit from more time in the minors–he spent just 13 games at Triple-A last season–and by sending him back down the Giants keep his service time clock from ticking any further. Belt remains one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, but he’s not a fully formed major leaguer yet and may get some outfield work himself in Fresno.
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.