Cubs may give Carlos Marmol another crack at closing

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It sounds like Cubs manager Dale Sveum is just about ready to give Carlos Marmol another chance in the closer role just a week after stripping him of ninth-inning duties.

“I would be lying to you if he wasn’t working his way back into it,” Sveum told Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune. “He is throwing strikes and he is throwing his slider more and he’s more consistent. So, yeah, he’s working his way back. That was part of the deal.”

It also helps Marmol’s cause that potential replacement closer Kyuji Fujikawa is now on the disabled list and Shawn Camp blew a save Sunday. In the meantime Marmol has thrown four scoreless innings since the demotion, although with three strikeouts compared to two walks he hasn’t exactly been dominant.

And for whatever it’s worth Jeff Samardzija voiced his support for turning back to Marmol, saying: “We have a closer. Marmol’s our guy.”

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

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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.