Pirates acquire left-hander J.A. Happ from Mariners

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Left-hander J.A. Happ is on the move, going from Seattle to Pittsburgh to provide some back-of-the-rotation and/or long relief depth for the Pirates.

Happ has mostly struggled this season with a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts, including a particularly ugly outing versus the Twins earlier this week, and he hasn’t posted an ERA better than 4.20 since 2010. He’s a 32-year-old with a 4.29 career ERA and mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and Happ is an impending free agent.

On the heels of the Pirates acquiring Joe Blanton the Happ addition kind of seems like fifth starter/long reliever overkill, but clearly the Pirates feel like they need some innings eaten by so-so veterans.

In exchange for Happ the Mariners get 2012 fifth-round draft pick Adrian Sampson, a 23-year-old right-hander with a sub par strikeout rate and iffy overall numbers as a starter at Triple-A.

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.