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Ronald Acuña’s grand slam probably shouldn’t have happened

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Before we look forward to today’s three games’ worth of playoff action — that look ahead will be posted at 10 AM Eastern — let’s take one last look back at last night’s Braves victory over the Dodgers. Specifically, let’s look back at that Ronald Acuña grand slam without which the Braves would not have won.

Dodgers starter Walker Buehler was lost, having thrown seven balls in a row and walking one of baseball’s worst hitting pitchers in Sean Newcomb with the bases loaded. Up comes Acuña and things don’t get better. The count goes to 3-0.

Acuña was taking the next pitch all the way, obviously. In doing so, he basically stood straight up, dropped his bat and stepped out of the box before the pitch even made it to home plate. The ump called it a strike. In the moment, I called it a “gift” to Buehler, as the ball seemed a foot high.

That said, right after I tweeted that it was a “gift,” many people pointed out to me that, hey, once Acuña stood up, it expanded his strike zone and the ump was probably right to call it a strike. Either that or the ump was miffed that Acuna was stepping out so early. I don’t know about the ump’s attitude, and I still think that pitch should’ve been called a ball and Acuña should’ve been awarded first base, but either way, Acuña lived on for one more pitch. He then geared up for the 3-1 offering and put it over the fence to give Atlanta a 5-0 lead.

Without getting into a discussion of umpire fallibility, I am almost certain that if Acuña stays in his usual batting stance, a run is walked in but the grand slam doesn’t happen. If the grand slam doesn’t happen, it’s not unreasonable to say that the Dodgers win and they’re back home in Los Angeles now resting up for the NLCS while the Braves are straggling in to SunTrust Park late this morning to pick up their personal belongings and starting their offseason.

All that’s just pretty wild to me.

The sequence:

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.