Anthony Rendon’s first attempt at a minor league rehab assignment was halted about a month ago due to an oblique strain, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that he returned to game action last night with Double-A Harrisburg.
Rendon, who has been sidelined since early on in spring training with a sprained MCL in his left knee, went 1-for-4 with a single and three strikeouts and played seven innings at second base. The Nationals figure to play it safe with him after his previous setback, but there’s optimism that he could finally be ready to make his season debut at some point next week.
Rendon was the Nationals’ most valuable player last season, batting .287/.351/.473 with 21 home runs, 83 RBI, and 17 steals while splitting his time between second base and third base. He’s expected to play both positions during his rehab assignment, but it looks like he’ll play second base upon his return while Yunel Escobar will remain at third.
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.