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Various Injustices

Bryce Harper [1] arranged his own early exit. Steven Matz [2] decided to stay a while longer this time. And Mark Carlson … well, he didn’t know if pitches were coming or going.

For the Mets, Matz was the happy headline. A start after recording not even a solitary out against these same Phillies, he acquitted himself far better, pitching aggressively — and, to be fair, being supported defensively. Matz has always had a bit too much Jon Niese [3] in him for my tastes, and in the third it looked like he was about to perform an oh-so-Niesean fade. Cesar Hernandez [4] doubled, Aaron Altherr [5] walked, and Jake Arrieta [6] bunted the ball a trifle too hard to Matz. Matz stared at Todd Frazier [7], waiting to record the out on Hernandez at third … and took the sure out at first instead. Oh boy, I thought. Here it comes. The crumble, the scuffing and kicking around the mound, the implosion, the departure, the hangdog postgame press conference. The Full Niese, in other words.

But no, not tonight. Matz fanned Andrew McCutchen [8], got a ground ball to short, and walked off unscathed — and, it would turn out, on his way to a victory [9].

That victory was helped by RBI hits from Pete Alonso [10] and Wilson Ramos [11] and a homer from Jeff McNeil [12] — heroics that, unfortunately, unfolded amid the distractions of yet another baseball ump show. Harper was ejected in the fourth for chirping from the dugout about balls and strikes, an eruption that earned him a postgame scolding from Arrieta, who went on to accuse the rest of his teammates of not being ready to play after the rain delay. Things are not well in Philly, not after getting spanked by the Rockies and finding their engineered-to-dominate outfit scuffling along a tick above .500. (Things aren’t particularly better in our own N.L. East nook and cranny, but we won tonight and they didn’t, so there … at least for a night.)

Anyway, Harper was wrong on the particulars but right on the generalities. Yes, Mark Carlson had a dreadful night behind the plate; no, Harper wasn’t one of his more visible victims. The various strike-zone recording services are all a little different, but I rolled through the game pitch by pitch on ESPN’s feed and the strikes called on Harper all looked more or less legit. But Carlson missed plenty on other hitters: a whopping 18 by my count, including pitches in the ABs to Alonso, Ramos and McNeil.

I had the bad calls at 10-8 in terms of Benefiting the Phils vs. Benefiting the Mets, with Matz also getting squeezed in the Rhys Hoskins [13] AB that yielded a home run. But as I wrote last week [14], surely the point isn’t to be bad at your job but have the incompetence be evenly distributed. Every single game offers evidence that baseball’s umpires are inept at correctly judging balls and strikes. They’re putting their thumbs on the scale during key moments, and it shouldn’t matter that there’s no malice involved. The game is being distorted, and baseball ought not to stand for it any longer. I think moving the mound back is reckless and dangerous and starting extra innings with runners on second is stupid and unnecessary, but I would like balls and strikes to be called correctly, and altering the game so that they are would be a change that I, for one, would greet with open arms.

Anyway, Harper departed, equilibrium disturbed but hair still perfect — seriously, he was like an action figure that came with an extra Angry Bryce head. After that some good Met bullpenning and bad Phillie bullpenning turned a close game less close, with an excess of Mets getting hit by pitches, rain beginning to fall again, and Edwin Diaz [15] arriving for the ninth (a la some loopy Callaway formula that I’d rather not think about) and sending the Phillies away to think about what they’d done.

That wasn’t bad for a night where I’d figured the only victor would be the rain. I just wish Mark Carlson hadn’t brought his own little black cloud.

Addendum: I missed that one of the changes to be tested in the Atlantic League is indeed an automated strike zone [16]. Huzzah! Moving the mound back is still crazy, though.