If you have been out of the loop for the past few hours on this Fourth of July, you missed a wild one at Citi Field. Fending off a pair of dramatic comebacks, the Diamondbacks defeated the Mets 5-4 in 15 innings. It took five hours and 46 minutes to get a winner.
The game was tied 2-2 through nine innings behind solid performances by Ian Kennedy and Dillon Gee, but the Diamondbacks eventually took the lead in the 13th inning when David Aardsma walked Cody Ross with the bases loaded. Heath Bell then came on for the save chance, but after getting the first two outs, he gave up a game-tying solo home run to Anthony Recker. The Diamondbacks responded in the 14th inning with an RBI single by Martin Prado, but the Mets came back to tie it again on another solo home run, this time by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Yes, back-to-back innings with game-tying homers. Wild stuff.
The Diamondbacks moved ahead for good in the top of the 15th inning when Cliff Pennington singled off Scott Rice to bring home Gerardo Parra. The Mets had runners at second and third against Brad Ziegler in the bottom of the frame when Nieuwenhuis came up to the plate with two outs, but he didn’t have any heroics in store this time, as he grounded out harmlessly to first base to end it. It had to end sometime.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, the last team to have two game-tying home runs in extra innings was the 1998 Cardinals. That’s not the only oddity about today’s game, as Adam Rubin of ESPN New York notes that it helped secure the longest four-game series in MLB — in terms of time played — since the Dodgers and Astros in 1989.
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.