Jesus hits cleanup for the Nationals

35 Comments

That’s the actual headline from this Washington Times story about the Nats and religion:

But this year, perhaps more than in years past, religion has become a frequent topic inside the Nationals’ clubhouse. Players of differing beliefs discuss them, sometimes turning into hotly contested debates. Multiple players, regardless of whether they were actively religious or not, said they never had been on a team that talks about religion as much as this one.

“People always say, ‘When you’re with strangers you don’t talk about politics, you don’t talk about religion,’” Stammen said. “But we’ve all become good enough friends that I don’t think we judge each other too much. We can talk about it a little bit. And there’s guys who are very interested and inquisitive, because they don’t know much about it.”

Ballplayers are, on the whole, a pretty religious bunch. Demographics play into that, as there is a huge overlap between people from rural areas, the south, Latinos and religious identification.  Every clubhouse has a chapel service and a core of players one could call the religious caucus. And, for the most part, it’s never a big deal. You hear random stories about guys like Chad Curtis making waves in the clubhouse due to their zealotry, but when you look at what else defines Chad Curtis, you’d be hard-pressed to say that his problems were borne of a particularly religious disposition. He’s just a total jerk.

Beyond that stuff I’ve always been impressed at how seamlessly baseball clubhouses blend together people from different religions and cultures and attitudes. Especially given how much time these guys have to spend together in fairly close quarters. It’s amazing we don’t hear more about rifts and personality clashes than we do.

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

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
19 Comments

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.