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Dodgers-Rangers get into shoving match over home plate collision

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As we mentioned in this morning’s recaps, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers got into a benches-clearing dust-up after Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp attempted to barrel over Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos at the plate in the bottom of the third inning of last night’s game in Los Angeles.

Kemp was attempting to score from second base on Kiké Hernandez’s two-out single, when the relay throw home to Chirinos went up the line, causing Chirinos to go after it and into Kemp’s path. Faced with a choice of sliding into home or barreling into Chirinos in an effort to dislodge the ball, Kemp chose the latter. They collided, Chirinos held on and when they got up, he shoved Kemp, Kemp shoved back and all hell broke loose:

As we discussed earlier this morning, this play is one of those which demonstrates the imperfections of the slide/plate-blocking rules. Imperfections which I do not believe Major League Baseball can really do much about, as not all baseball plays can be accounted for with pre-set rules. At least not to everyone’s satisfaction.

As umpire Bill Welke explained after the game, Kemp would’ve been safe if he had slid, even if he didn’t make it to the plate past Chirinos, because he would be (a) attempting a legal slide; while (b) a catcher illegally blocked his progress. However, as Kemp also noted after the game, sliding into a catcher blocking the plate is the sort of thing that can get a guy hurt, just as he was hurt back in 2013, requiring surgery on his ankle following an awkward slide. I am pretty certain two that option three — simply stop or run out of the base line to avoid a collision — would’ve resulted in him being out too, because the rule requires an attempted slide to trigger it. Obviously, of course, the entire set of rules surrounding such things are about protecting the catcher, so barreling into him like Kemp did is not great either.

So, no, not sure what everyone was supposed to do here. Maybe Kemp should’ve made the weakest sort of slide possible? One that was totally not calculated to contact Chirinos, but which would still satisfy the “make and effort to slide” thing? I dunno.

Either way, it’s a good illustration of how not all written rules are clear cut. I think it’s also an illustration of the need for umpires to have some judgment in such matters but which they no longer have on plays like this. Major League Baseball has been pretty adamant about removing judgment calls over the past several years, and here I think it cost the Dodgers a run.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.