During his postgame press conference Tony La Russa shed light on the odd sequence of events that led to the Rangers taking the lead in the eighth inning, explaining that he stayed with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to face right-handed slugger Mike Napoli and then used Lance Lynn solely to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler because the bullpen coach never heard him call for Jason Motte to get warmed up.
According to La Russa the dugout first placed a call to the bullpen to have Motte warm up alongside Rzepczynski, which would have gotten him ready to face Napoli. However, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist either never picked up the phone or didn’t hear the instruction correctly.
Later a second call was made, but Lilliquist once again misunderstood the instructions and, according to La Russa, thought he heard “Lynn” rather than “Motte” even though Lynn was only to be used in what the manager described as an emergency situation. “I saw Lynn and was like ‘OK, what are you doing here,'” La Russa explained, adding that crowd noise has caused similar problems at other ballparks.
So without Motte ready to pitch La Russa stuck with Rzepczynski, who allowed the go-ahead double to Napoli, and then brought in Lynn only to remove him after an intentional walk. Motte finally came in after that and did his job, striking out Elvis Andrus to the end the inning, but the damage had already been done.
And all because the calls from the dugout to the bullpen were misunderstood.
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.