Update (9:19 PM ET): Credit to the Nationals — they battled back. It’s 10-9 after six innings. They hung up a four-spot in the fifth and added five more in the sixth. Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam. Maybe that players-only meeting helped after all.
Wednesday’s players-only meeting in the Nationals’ clubhouse apparently didn’t do the trick. Through four innings of Thursday night’s series opener at home against the Marlins, the Nationals are getting blown out 9-1.
Starter Jeremy Hellickson has given up all nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Martin Prado knocked in a run in the top of the first thanks to a fielding error by third baseman Anthony Rendon. In the second, J.T. Realmuto hit a two-run single and Justin Bour followed up with an RBI single. A short while later, Martin Prado clanked a three-run home run off the foul pole down the left field line. Bour added a two-run homer in the fourth.
Trea Turner put the Nationals on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run off of Pablo Lopez, but the Nats will need a lot more than that to get back into the game.
If the Nats drop Thursday’s game, they’ll have lost their fourth game in a row and their 18th in their last 23 games. The first-place Braves are currently leading the Brewers and the Phillies have the night off. The Nationals entered play Thursday seven games behind the Braves and 5.5 behind the Phillies.
If you had been told in mid-April that, in July, Gabe Kapler would be the most successful of the three rookie managers in the National League, you likely would have been very skeptical. Kapler’s Phillies are 47-37. Mickey Callaway’s Mets are 34-49. And Dave Martinez’s 42-43 Nationals are sinking quickly.
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.