Umps and pitch counts: how both conspired to make World Series Game 6 frustrating to watch

The game of baseball is based on failure. But some failures are avoidable.

The tone is set early in Game 6 of the World Series as home plate umpire Lance Barksdale does not call the low strike to Philadelphia Philly, Kyle Schwarber. I have umpired. To me, it is the most difficult pitch to call, which is why I have a high strike zone. My theory is, if I can’t see it, I can’t call it one way or the other. Still, it sets the tone for an at-bat that must have left Schwarber feeling like he was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Barksdale then calls a ball on a pitch from Astros starter Framber Valdez to Schwarber which is an obvious third strike. It is up in the zone but with room to spare on the batter’s side and the top of the zone. More on Valdez later…

Third base umpire Dan Iassogna rules Schwarber had swung at a pitch when he had not broken the plane of the plate.

The same umpire later rules a chopper off the bat of Rhys Hoskins is foul when it very clearly is over the bag.

Barksdale punches out Philly Nick Castellanos on a third strike that is not only low, but is also two inches inside.

Phillies have a chance to trade the slow-footed Yordan Alvarez for Jeremy Pena on the bases on a pop up but don’t.

In the fifth inning, Valdez wipes sweat off of his forehead and blows into his hand before delivering the curve ball that strikes out Sosa to end the frame. The rule book says a pitcher must wipe off his hand on another surface before delivering a pitch. Considering the uproar over Valdez’ Game 2 start, you would think the umpires might be paying more attention.

Also not paying attention to the action on his starter’s pitches, Philly manager Rob Thomson pulls Zack Wheeler after Astros’ Martin Maldonado crowds the plate and gets hit. Of Wheeler’s last three batters-faced, Jose Altuve had grounded into a fielder’s choice and there had been just one solidly hit ball by Pena.

70 pitches.

Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado had been unhittable until Game 5, which is when the Astros obviously figured something out, or the spell just wore off. It is obvious Thomson has made the wrong decision. After a third pitch that is in the other batter’s box, Alvarado serves up a ball that Yordan Alvarez hits to the Oklahoma state line. A 1-0 lead is now 2-1 Astros. For once, it isn’t Dusty Baker who makes the bad call.

Good calls: Joe Davis, “This game just got turned upside down!” and Smoltz on Alex Bregman‘s attempt to test Schwarber’s arm and turn a single into a double, ” Ow and (when the replay showed Bregman’s index finger being bent back severely)… out?” Nice.

In the end, the better team probably won. The Spitter called it for the Astros in six games before the series, so we look like geniuses. It would just be nice if umpires didn’t make terrible calls in crucial situations and if managers figured out a better way to tell if their starters are still effective or if they need to be pulled.

We can call join together now in a chorus of, “Good luck with that.”

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