Before Andrew McCutchen sent chills down the spines of every person on the North Shore. Before the Pirates came back to tie the game in dramatic fashion in the eighth inning. Before AJ Burnett helped himself with his fourth career home run and first since 2005. Before all of these events that made PNC Park an electric place to be on Saturday night, there stood 36-year-old Vic Carapazza, who ultimately made a decision that affected the entire outcome of the game.
A.J. Burnett began the game on a roll with 6 5, straight outs, seemingly with ease. There was one way to stop Burnett’s roll – by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza forcing him to record four strikes in an at-bat to Mark Reynolds in the second, rather than the age-old, traditional three strikes. Burnett was not able to record the elusive fourth strike of the at-bat, as Reynolds took him deep to left field, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
On a 1-2 count to Reynolds, Burnett pulled the string on a 12-to-7, 83 MPH curveball, and Reynolds appeared to swing and miss for strike three. Unfortunately, Carapazza did not agree, saying that Reynolds foul tipped the ball into the dirt.
Sound familiar? Last Monday, Burnett faced Derek Norris of the Padres in the 8th inning. Burnett went up in the count 1-2, Norris appeared to swing and miss at a Burnett fastball, the home plate ump disagreed and said it was a foul ball, and Norris eventually singled to right field.
Lucky for us, the internet is a fantastic place, and @ForbesToFederal captured both “foul tips” in GIF format. See for yourself:
this was ruled a foul ball pic.twitter.com/HmeZpaMCFD
— Forbes to Federal (@ForbesToFederal) July 7, 2015
AND SO WAS THIS pic.twitter.com/bVqdneSnct
— Forbes to Federal (@ForbesToFederal) July 11, 2015
On Monday, the missed call cost Burnett an out and forced manager Clint Hurdle to remove him from the game before completing eight innings. In the end, though, the missed call did not affect the final outcome of the game. Unfortunately for Burnett and the Pirates, this missed call loomed much greater as Reynolds cleared the left field wall on the next pitch, and ultimately changed the whole dimension of the game.
The missed call led to the ejections of catcher Francisco Cervelli, who immediately was tossed for his comments to Carapazza following the hit, and manager Clint Hurdle.
Crew chief Larry Vanover said after the game that home plate umpire Vic Carapazza heard a foul tip on the pitch. He then ejected Cervelli immediately because of language. Hurdle explained that he was more upset with the quick hook on Cervelli than the actual call.
Burnett was extremely efficient before the home run, with 14 strikes and 5 balls for a strike rate of 73.7%. After the home run and not including the intentional walk later that inning, Burnett threw 50 strikes and 38 balls. That’s a strike rate of 56.8%, a stark contrast of how Burnett was pitching before the home run.
More balls will surely be thrown as a pitcher goes later into the game; however, the ramifications of that home run are glaring. It forced Burnett to throw 13 extra pitches in the second inning. It also allowed John Lackey to bat in the second, rather than the third inning when the Cardinals were able to have the top of their rotation batting. Even though the home run was only one run, all of the corresponding factors to follow inevitably gave the Cardinals an edge.
Undoubtedly, these two blown calls against Burnett this week will bring up the role of instant replay in Major League Baseball.
“I think there will be a lot of conversation this winter over it,” Hurdle said about being able to review that play. “The second time in three innings with AJ on the mound and Cervelli behind the plate. It complicated the game in the eighth inning. It complicates the game today. Both times would have been the third out of the inning, the inning would have been put away.”
The times that review is currently allowed and disallowed really doesn’t make much sense. Without giving personal views of replay, I simply believe that these two plays will be shown over the offseason as reasons why MLB’s review policies need… well… reviewed.