The Astros have designated first baseman Carlos Pena and shortstop Ronny Cedeno for assignment, reports Brian McTaggart. Shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar is being promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Cedeno’s spot on the roster. CSN Houston reports that Villar will be the team’s starting shortstop tomorrow.
Villar was acquired along with Anthony Gose and J.A. Happ from the Phillies on July 29, 2010 in the Roy Oswalt trade. In 385 trips to the plate at Triple-A, Villar posted a .786 OPS, including a marked increase in power in what has been the best season of his professional career.
Pena, known for his power, had just eight home runs in 325 plate appearances with the Astros. His .350 slugging percentage is a career low and his .324 on-base percentage is his lowest since 2002, though this isn’t all that surprising considering he is 35 years old. Cedeno had a rebirth of sorts with the Mets last year, posting a .741 OPS in 186 PA. His career average is .641, but the 30-year-old could only get to .558 this year.
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.