CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the Astros are the latest team to have shown interest in Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. They’re the sixth team with reported interest in the veteran, joining the Cubs, Angels, Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers. With All-Star Jose Altuve at second base, Utley would likely split time at first base and DH if he were to become an Astro.
Entering Friday night’s action, Utley was hitting .412 (7-for-17) with three doubles since returning from the disabled list on August 7. As of this writing, he is 3-for-4 with a double and two singles against the Brewers. He had been out since June 23 due to a right ankle injury. Upon hitting the disabled list, Utley carried a poor .179/.257/.275 batting line. During his DL stint, he said he found a flaw in his swing caused by the ankle injury, which he corrected.
Utley, 36, is owed the remainder of his $10 million salary for the 2015 season. He has an option for the 2016 season that is all but assured not to vest, so the odds are on him becoming a free agent after the season. Utley is reportedly seeking an assurance of playing time to waive his no-trade clause per his 10-and-5 rights.
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.