Most people are high on the Nationals this season, but outfielder Bryce Harper might be the highest of all. Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com spoke with Harper on Wednesday …
The biggest money quote in a string of them came when Harper was asked for his reaction to the Nationals’ surprise signing of Max Scherzer, a $210 million addition to what already was lauded as baseball’s best rotation.
“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing,” Harper said. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.
He’s right — between Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister the starting rotation is indeed stupid-good — but that kind of confidence won’t sit well with everybody.
Washington has been considered something of a juggernaut three years running, yet the franchise has not captured a World Series championship in its 46-year existence (dating back to the Montreal Expos days).
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.