When you put 21-balls into play you expect more than four hits in a game. The Washington Nationals had a .190 BABIP as in they had a .190 batting average on balls-in-play last night. Part of it was bad luck, and part of it was bad swings forced by the ump show via Paul Emmel which happened over and over last night with a strike zone that moved. There were bush-league plays that factored into the Nats losing 3-2 to the rival New York Mets, and in all — baseball happened. Those great catches by Lane Thomas and Jake Alu, and starter MacKenzie Gore‘s four scoreless innings were for naught.
For Nats fans, they have to wonder why the ump-show is so one-sided? It is not their imagination. It is qualified and quantified daily by Twitter ump auditors. It just does not equal out.
It is situations when the wrong call has a greater impact due to the situation that changes a game in an instant. No outs and man on first last night in the ninth inning of a one-run game, and the Nats’ Alex Call did not see a ball in the zone in the first five pitches, yet his count was 3-2. He should have walked and made it two on and no outs with CJ Abrams given an opportunity to bunt them over. Instead Call struck out and Abrams followed with swinging on anything that looked close. There are no do-overs in this game.
Some would say the Nats’ had plenty of chances and did not take advantage enough of the Mets’ mistakes which were aplenty. 31,904 fans saw some exciting baseball, but it did not feel like fair baseball. Joey Meneses accepted his strike zone that a pitch two-inches off of the outside edge was going to be a strike so he had to widen his zone. It put him at a competitive disadvantage after he started off his game with an RBI single for the first run of the game — then his bat went silent as he dealt with Emmel’s moving zone.
Again, it was not all because of bad umpiring. There were plenty of bad swings and some really good pitches by Mets’ pitchers. The Mets scored all of their 3-runs in that sixth inning with two weak hits that included a dagger bloop, flush on the right-field chalk line that put reliever Andres Machado and the Nats in a bad spot on a 62.3 mph, 162 foot lob wedge that gave the Mets men at 3rd and 2nd with no outs. After a sparkling play to cut down the runner at home on a comebacker to Machado, and then a groundout, the Nats looked like they would get out of this unscathed. But then, manager Dave Martinez pegged the struggling Carl Edwards Jr. to get the third out in the inning with two on, and two outs. Why Edwards?
“The matchup was CEJ on Nimmo, and he walked. We talk all the time about him walking guys, and he’s got throw strikes. If he throws strikes, he’s good. He walks him and then he goes behind to a really good hitter, 3-2. Didn’t really hit it hard, but he hit it good enough.”— Martinez explained that he wanted that matchup
Before this game, Edwards had inherited runners on-base five times, 60 percent of the time he allowed one runner to score. This was high leverage, game on the line, and Edwards earned the blown-save plus the loss after facing just two batters. His second blown-save loss of the season. Maybe Edwards leaves with just a blown-save in a tie game if Abrams paid attention that Brandon Nimmo was still running and would score from first base on Francisco Lindor‘s single. The hustling Nimmo really schooled the young Abrams. Eesh. Just insult to injury.
Edwards’ 5.4 BB/9 and 1.11 K/BB ratio is not going to work for this team. A 1.400 WHIP and lack of control is a problem. Edwards is a guy you put in there for low lev games when you have a large lead or a big deficit — not in a fireman’s spot. But a bush-league play by Abrams who was just not paying attention was costly. The Nats had few mistakes, but it is when they happen at critical times that the cost factor is ratcheted.
This Nats’ team once again showed how close they are to being good, and maybe they did not stand a chance with Emmel behind the plate. Gore who started the game, wasn’t getting calls at the bottom of the zone where he lives. It ratcheted up his pitch count, and he lasted just four innings, although he did not allow a run. You can see his zone and some obvious misses by Emmel.
They say you cannot beat city hall, and Gore was cooked much in the same way that Patrick Corbin was last week at the hands of homeplate ump Erich Bacchus who was worse than Emmel last night if you can believe that. MLB has a real problem, and the “challenge system” being tested in the Atlantic League isn’t the answer.
None of this would solve a non-hustle play by Luis Garcia who jogged to first base on a dropped third strike as Alu sprinted around third base and would have scored if Garcia was seven feet faster to first base as the Mets’ catcher just goosed a throw to first base. Maybe if Garcia was running hard out of the box, the throw would have been a straight bullet on target. Who knows, but I do know hustle costs you nothing, and Alu was hustling around third base — just in case. In fact Alu was hustling all night from getting his first MLB hit, a hustle two-base error on a ball that clanked off of Lindor’s glove for an error, and a Web Gem catch on the left-field line that was spectacular.
“We battled, we played. We got four hits, a couple of runs early. Couldn’t put any more on the board, but when your starting pitcher goes four innings, it’s tough. But they didn’t quit and we battled back.”— manager Dave Martinez said after the game
The Nats battled until the end, and they almost pulled this out with the long odds stacked against them.