Jonny Venters tossed a scoreless inning last night in his first rehab appearance last night with Triple-A Gwinnett. He was originally expected to make two appearances before returning from the disabled list, but the Braves have decided to activate him for today’s doubleheader against the Nationals. Matt Diaz was placed on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion in a corresponding roster move.
Venters has been sidelined since July 5 with a left elbow impingement. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 4.45 ERA and 43/17 K/BB ratio over 32 1/3 innings this season, including a 6.08 ERA since May 1. No pitcher has appeared in more games (207) since Venters made his major league debut in 2010.
Craig Kimbrel blew his second save of the season last night and has worked in each of the last three days, so Venters could find himself in the mix for a save if the Braves have a lead today.
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.