With the bases loaded, the count 3-0, and the Texas Rangers trailing the San Diego Padres by the score of 10-3 in the eighth inning, Juan Nicasio threw what was essentially a get me over strike. For much of baseball history, no batter would swing at the pitch.
There were and are unwritten rules where you don’t show up your opponent. When the score is this lopsided late in the game, you don’t steal bases, take the extra base, and you certainly don’t swing when up 3-0 in the count. Last night, Fernando Tatis, Jr. swung 3-0 and boy did he connect:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 18, 2020
The swing caused some controversy. Tatis’ manager Jayce Tingler spoke about how he didn’t like it calling it a “learning opportunity.” Seeing that, perhaps it should come as no surprise Tatis apologized for it.
When Rangers manager Chris Woodward addressed the “incident,” he said, “I didn’t like it personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning. It’s typically not a good time 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But … the norms are being challenged.”
Woodward hit it right on the head. There are going to be people who don’t like it. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. In sports and life, there’s always room for sportsmanship and not showing up the opponent or rubbing it in their face.
On the other hand, baseball is definitively evolving. Players are throwing out the unwritten rule book. There’s definitely merit to it.
Look at it this way, Tatis’ homer helps his case for MVP discussions. It also helps him for a future arbitration cases and salary discussions. Understand the point here. It’s not that one single PA affects it, but rather all of these PA accumulated.
As a Mets fan, we have heard Keith Hernandez comment on several occasions about these purportedly garbage time at-bats. As he’s said, you don’t just give away these at-bats. From his old school perspective, it could be the difference between hitting .300 and reaching 200 hits or falling short.
Almost assuredly, Hernandez would not be a fan of Tatis swinging 3-0. However, even with his old school mindset, you don’t just give away at-bats. That has an impact on your season and career. You’re a professional hitter facing a professional pitcher. You go up there, and you try.
That’s also part of the unwritten rules. The batter isn’t up there to just give up. Another part of the unwritten rules is the Rangers are still going to try and comeback to win that game no matter how unlikely.
That last part is why Tatis swinging is justified. The Rangers didn’t give up. Sure, if it was a position player pitching, we could see swinging 3-0 as beyond the pale. Still, these are Tatis’ numbers and MVP voters and arbitrators aren’t going to tally unwritten rule points to factor into their determinations.
So yes, for a multitude of reasons, Tatis was justified in swinging. By the same token, there’s no problem with the Rangers feeling like they were shown up. That goes double when for over 100 years things like swinging 3-0 just wasn’t done.
The Rangers just threw behind a Padres hitter because the previous hitter (Fernando Tatis Jr.) hit a granny on 3-0.
Here's a thought: how about you learn how to not give up 14 runs and not give up 7 RBI to a kid who can barely legally buy a beer. pic.twitter.com/y68zDQW8dS
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) August 18, 2020
It’s important to note Gibaut did it the right way. He kept the pitch low and towards Machado’s backside. It wasn’t towards the head or hands.
Gibaut went up there, and he stuck up for his teammate. He properly delivered the message to the Padres to knock it off. They found what Tatis did wasn’t acceptable.
Machado understood. He assuredly wasn’t happy, but he didn’t escalate the situation. The umpires did what they needed to do to make sure the situation didn’t escalate from there. Gibaut then did the right thing by moving on and pitching normally to Tatis.
There are going to be many who didn’t like what Gibaut did. To that, there’s still room in this game for having your teammate’s back, and there’s room for delivering messages. Notably, by getting it out of the way, it was addressed and no issues should fester.
Ultimately, we should all be able to admit Tatis did absolutely nothing wrong while also saying Gibaut did nothing wrong. Both can be true, and honestly, baseball is better if we can admit this.
It’s great if we have a sport where talent like Tatis can shine, and we have the ability to have one teammate stick up for another (in the right way). To a certain extent, this is what Woodward was hinting at in his statement. Essentially, he said, I don’t like it, we don’t have to like it, but things are different.
Really, when you break it down, only one person was absolutely in the wrong here – Tingler. He needed to have Tatis’ and Machado’s backs. He needed to say my players compete, and don’t throw at my players. He didn’t, and that’s plain wrong.
Overall, other than Tingler, who embarrassed himself, no one should have a problem with anything that happened. Tatis’ grand slam was great, and the Rangers response was fine. That’s baseball.
The expectation is that with a game changing play, you would expect things to become a little more one-sided, and one team to begin to pull away. As Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran can tell you, that is not always the case. Last night, there was a myriad of change-changing plays. Here’s a shot at ranking the Top 10:
1. Gurriel’s 3 Run Homer (4th Inning)
Perhaps none of yesterday’s game would be possible if not for Yuli Gurriel‘s three run homer. At that point, the Astros were down 4-1, and their former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel had nothing. While the Astros had already gotten to Clayton Kershaw, it’s still Kershaw. If Kershaw gets Gurriel there, the inning is over, and the game has a much different feel. Instead, Gurriel hit a homer that came out of nowhere and descended us all into madness.
2. Barnes’ Hustle Double (9th Inning)
If you subscribe to the theory home runs are rally killers, Yasiel Puig‘s two run homer in the top of the 9th gave Chris Devenski and the Astros a chance to exhale, get the last out, and win the game. Instead, Austin Barnes stretched what should have been a long single into a one out double. The pressure was back on, and more importantly, the game tying run was in scoring position for Joc Pederson and eventually Chris Taylor, who would deliver to the two out RBI single to tie the game.
3. Taylor Didn’t Go Home (8th Inning)
After Corey Seager hit a one out double off Will Harris to pull the Dodgers to within two runs, Justin Turner hit a deep fly ball to right center. Instead of challenging the arm of Josh Reddick, and pulling the Dodgers within a run, Taylor stayed at third base. The reason was because Minute Maid Park was so loud, he confused third base coach Chris Woodward‘s direction to “Go!” as him saying “No!” Chalk that one up for home field advantage.
4. Altuve Ties It Again (5th Inning)
Narratives exist because things happen. Game 5 was case in point why people say he chokes in the postseason even with his Game 1 peformance. After recording two quick outs, he walked Springer and Alex Bregman back-to-back, and with him at 94 pitchers, Dave Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who had been previously unscored upon this postseason. That changed with the Altuve home run, and it really set the table for the complete inability for the respective bullpens to get the job done.
5. Springer Redemption (7th Inning)
The half inning after Springer made an ill fated dive at a sinking liner in center (more on that in a moment), he would lead-off the bottom of the seventh against an exhausted Brandon Morrow, who had nothing. Springer got back the run he effectively gave up by hitting a monster of a game tying home run. That would spark a three run rally giving the Astros an 11-8 lead.
6. Bellinger Unties It (5th Inning)
After Gurriel hit the aforementioned game tying three run homer, Cody Bellinger hit a three run homer off of the struggling Collin McHugh, who had not pitched since the ALDS. At that time, the Dodgers seemed to have reclaimed momentum, and they gave Kershaw back a sizeable lead he should have been able to protect.
7. Bregman Walk-Off (10th Inning)
It may seem strange to have this so low, but that was the type of game it was. Bregman’s two out walk-off single against Kenley Jansen was the capper in a series of back and forth plays that not only gave fans whiplash but also sleep deprivation.
8. Springer Dove and Missed (7th Inning)
Believe it or not, the sixth inning of this game was scoreless as the bullpens began to settle in a bit after a crazy fifth. A Turner lead-off double of new reliever Brad Peacock created some tumult. Turner would then score easily when Bellinger hit a sinking liner to center. Instead of fielding in on a hop and trying to get Turner at home or decoying him, Springer dove . . . and missed. At the time the Astros fell behind 8-7, and they were lucky Bellinger wasn’t able to score on an inside-the-park home run.
9. The “Double Steal” (1st Inning)
At the outset of this game, you honestly believed a pitching matchup of Kershaw and Keuchel would be a pitcher’s duel. In fact, the Dodgers took Game 1 with both pitchers mostly shutting down the opposition save for three homers in the game. With the Dodgers having a 2-0 first inning lead, they were already in the driver’s seat.
Then, Keuchel made the weakest of pickoff attempts, and in what must’ve been a designed play, Logan Forsythe took off for second. As Gurriel threw it wide of second, Kiké Hernandez broke for the plate. With the errant throw and Forsythe getting in just ahead of the tag, it appeared as if the Dodgers had a commanding 3-0 lead in the game en route to a 3-2 series lead heading back to Chavez Ravine.
10. Correa in Just Ahead of the Tag (4th Inning)
Before the Gurriel game tying homer off Kershaw, Carlos Correa would deliver a one out RBI double to get the Astros on the board. On the play, Correa got in just ahead of the throw of Hernandez, and he would keep his foot on the bag. Had he not stayed on, he’s not on base when Gurriel hits the game tying home run.
Overall, these are just 10 moments from an otherwise Helter Skelter type of game. We all may have a different order, and there may be some plays that should have been included that were not. That’s just indicative of what type of game that was and what type of series this is.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.