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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:

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.