Astros’ rally ends on ‘Utley rule’ call, Brewers win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Houston Astros huddled around video monitors in the clubhouse for extra views. Manager A.J Hinch fumed in his office. Ace Dallas Keuchel made his frustration known on Twitter.

The Astros became the latest team in the majors to get a firsthand look at the “Chase Utley rule.”

Colby Rasmus was called for interference because of the new rule, resulting in a game-ending double play and blunting Houston’s ninth-inning rally in a 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

“My interpretation is that it’s a shame. The game ends on a play that the rule isn’t intended to protect,” said Hinch after the game, his voice cracking.

Down 6-0, the Astros scored four times in the ninth and put runners on first and second with one out.

Jose Altuve hit a bouncer to second baseman Scooter Gennett, who threw to shortstop Jonathan Villar for the forceout. Rasmus slid past the base, and Villar didn’t make a relay to first.

Second base umpire Dan Bellino called Rasmus for not trying to stay on the bag, part of the requirement under baseball’s new rule governing slides on potential double plays. The call was upheld after the Astros challenged the play.

“My second base umpire determined that it was not a bona fide slide because Rasmus did not attempt to stay on the base. He could not stay on the base,” crew chief Tom Hallion said. “With that, that is the rule of interference.”

Keuchel had a different opinion.

“Are we even playing baseball anymore??? Unbelievable,” the opinionated Cy Young Award winner said on Twitter.

It was the second time this week that “Utley rule” call ended a game. Toronto lost two runs and a potential win when Jose Bautista was called for interference at Tampa Bay.

Jeremy Jeffress was credited with his second save after getting the double play, in spite of allowing a hit and walk in the ninth.

“It’s a different way to end a game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “but we’ll take it.”

Counsell said the “Utley rule” was talked about at length during spring training, but players are still learning to adjust. Managers are still learning how to interpret it.

“The rule is the rule and we’re going to have to learn how to play with it,” Counsell said.

Hinch said there needed to be more clarification.

“He slid through the base and didn’t hang onto the base. When a play happens late, you’re asking major league athletes to essentially shut it down and slide at a pace that isn’t competitive,” Hinch said.

 

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.