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:

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.