Felix Doubront comes up big in Game 4 win

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These last few weeks couldn’t have been easy for Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront. With Clay Buchholz back and ready to pitch in the postseason, Doubront was sent to the pen at the end of the regular season after going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in his 27 starts. He didn’t want to make the move, and the Red Sox gave serious thought to leaving him off the postseason roster after he gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings in his one relief appearance at the end of the season.

Doubront, though, was picked over Matt Thornton for the last spot in Boston’s pen. And for three weeks, he knew he was only going to pitch if things weren’t going very well. He didn’t work in the ALDS. His two ALCS appearances came with the Red Sox down 5-1 and 7-1 to the Tigers. He did, however, pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings in those games, and the Red Sox came back and won the first of them, thanks to David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam.

In the World Series, Doubront was again on the sidelines for two games, but he got the call in a tight game 3 after Jake Peavy’s early exit and pitched scoreless fifth and sixth innings. He was impressive enough that manager John Farrell bypassed Ryan Dempster and went right back to him in Game 4 tonight. This time, Doubront retired the first eight hitters he faced before giving up a single with two outs in the seventh. Craig Breslow replaced him and allowed the baserunner to come around, ruining Doubront’s perfect postseason ERA. Doubront, though, ended up with the win. He entered with the Red Sox down 1-0 and left with them up 4-1.

Doubront most likely will get a well deserved rest in Game 5 on Monday night, but in barely more than 24 hours, he’s transformed himself from guy who comes into losses to key player in the Boston pen. Of course, he’d still much rather be the key player in the rotation, but he’ll get that chance again next year.

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.