Looking ahead to two more Game 5s

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Four best of five playoff series, four Game 5s. Life is good.

We do it again two more times tonight, with the following action on tap:

Orioles at Yankees, 5:07 PM ET, TBS:  It has been an offense-free zone for both teams, but it’s not surprising given the big names and big contracts that the Yankees are catching all the heat right now. Alex Rodriguez has been terrible but, really, Curtis Granderson has been worse. And it leaves Joe Girardi with a tough call tonight: do you play an elimination game without your future Hall of Famer and your 40+ home run center fielder in the lineup? Do you go with Eric Chavez and/or Brett Gardner in an effort to shake things up?  I doubt he’d make both of those calls, but benching A-Rod would not surprise me at all.

But maybe it’s the Orioles who need to worry more about their offense tonight, as they face CC Sabathia, who shut them down in Game 1. And, while they’re not getting the headlines Rodriguez and Granderson are getting, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones have been godawful too. They’ll need to figure something out if the O’s are going to advance to a meeting against the Tigers in the ALCS.

Cardinals at Nationals, 8:37 PM ET, TBS: Two things that I sort of don’t believe in in baseball: momentum carrying over and experience carrying the day.  The Nationals — thanks to Jayson Werth’s dramatic walkoff homer — have the former and the Cardinals — thanks to having the 2011 World Series hardware in their trophy case — have the latter, but that’s not really gonna matter tonight, as momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher and experience doesn’t put runners on the bases.

For the Cardinals it’s Adam Wainwright, for the Nats its Gio Gonzalez. Each are coming off strong Game 1 performances and each are facing lineups who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat in Game 4. The concern has to be more on the Nationals side, however, because even in victory yesterday the bats were mostly silent, whereas the Cardinals have been doing quite alright otherwise.  One gets the feeling that this will be a close, low-scoring game, however, decided by the bullpens.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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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.