Doug Fister is finally scheduled to make his Nationals debut Friday night after spending the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list, making the offseason trade to get him from the Tigers look a little less brilliant than most people (including me) opined at the time.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post also has an interesting new tidbit about the deal, reporting that the Nationals tried to sign Fister to a long-term contract extension right after trading for him.
Washington did a similar thing after acquiring Gio Gonzalez from the A’s in 2011, but Kilgore says the talks with Fister never progressed and instead the two sides avoided arbitration with a one-year, $7.2 million deal. Fister is under team control again in 2015 via arbitration and can then become a free agent at age 32, so considering the offseason contracts guys like Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Ubaldo Jimenez received it’s easy to see him asking the Nationals for more than $50 million in any extension talks.
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.