In late May, Albert Almora of the Chicago Cubs hit a line drive foul into the stands just beyond the netting at Minute Maid Park. The ball struck a small child, who had to be carried out of the stands to receive medical attention. Almora and many others who witnessed the aftermath of the accident were visibly shaken.
Now we have some insight into why. KTRK of Houston reports that the child — a two year-old girl — suffered a fractured skull, had subdural bleeding, brain contusions, brain edema and suffered severe seizures in the wake of the incident. The information came from an attorney retained by the family of the victim.
The girl was seated just beyond where netting currently ends at Minute Maid Park. Since the girl was injured, there have been multiple other fans injured by hard-hit foul balls. In response, Major League Baseball said it planned to monitor the issue of fans being injured by foul balls, but has declined to mandate extended netting. Recently, however, the Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce that they would soon extend protective netting all the way to the foul pole down each line. Based on how these things have gone in the past, expect other teams to follow suit, sooner or later.
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.