Pirates win eighth in a row, are the first team to 50 wins

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The Pirates continued their hot streak with a 2-1 victory over the Brewers tonight, their eighth in a row and their 50th of the season. The Red Sox also started the day at 49 wins, but dropped their afternoon game against the Blue Jays. The Cardinals won, so the Pirates maintain their one-game lead in the NL Central.

Starter Francisco Liriano tossed six solid frames for the Buccos, allowing just one run on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. He lowered his ERA to 2.23 as he has turned out to be quite a solid pickup by GM Neal Huntington judging from the lefty’s first ten starts in Pittsburgh. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli each pitched a perfect inning in relief. Grilli picked up his league-leading 27th save in the effort. The offense was provided by two solo home runs, by Pedro Alvarez in the second and by Garrett Jones in the fourth.

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.