Last night was not Don Mattingly’s finest hour

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Carlos Beltran delivered the walkoff RBI single in the 13th inning last night to lead the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, but a number of questionable decisions from Don Mattingly set the events in motion.

The first occurred in the top of the eighth inning after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a leadoff walk and was removed in favor of pinch-runner Dee Gordon. The idea was for Gordon to take off and steal second base, but he didn’t run on the first two pitches to Yasiel Puig and was eventually erased on a force out. The decision to remove Gonzalez for a pinch-runner came back to bite the Dodgers multiple times, as Michael Young entered the game to play first base and hit into inning-ending double plays out of the cleanup spot in the 10th and 12th innings. While the first one required an excellent throw from Beltran in right field, the second was set up after Mattingly had Mark Ellis bunt Carl Crawford over to second base, which was quickly countered by Mike Matheny intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez to pitch to Young.

For Mattingly’s part, he told Phil Rogers of MLB.com after the game that he didn’t regret his decision to remove Gonzalez for Gordon in the eighth.

“Well, it’s one of those [situations] that you’ve got to shoot your bullet when you get a chance,” Mattingly said. “If we don’t use [Gordon] there and the next guy hits a ball in the gap and he doesn’t score and we don’t score there, we’re going to say, ‘Why didn’t you use Dee?’ So it was our opportunity to run him. Obviously, Yasiel swung early, and it didn’t work out for us. But it’s still a situation that I don’t think we would [do differently]. You get a guy on in that inning, and you have to take a shot at scoring a run.”

But that’s not all. While Matheny used his closer Trevor Rosenthal for two innings in a tie game, Mattingly preferred to hold Kenley Jansen for a save situation. This caused him to use relievers like Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, and Chris Withrow in extra innings first. Mattingly was finally forced to turn to Jansen in the bottom of the 13th after Withrow allowed a one-out single to Daniel Descalso and walked Matt Carpenter, but Beltran quickly ended things with the walkoff single. Perhaps things would have turned out differently if Jansen was given a chance to begin the 13th clean, but it sounds like that was never Mattingly’s intention. In fact, he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com that holding Jansen out for a save situation is “pretty much what happens with the closer.”

There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and the Dodgers have a chance to even things up today with their ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound, but they find themselves in an early hole in part due to Mattingly’s failed strategy.

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

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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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.