Ump show breaks out at The K

Brady Singer shoved, but after Ángel Hernández takes center stage the bats go silent and the bullpen serves up solo dingers.

Through five innings, Ángel Hernández was just another anonymous umpire. And if there’s anything that Ángel Hernández dislikes, it’s anonymity. The players and the game had been the focus up to that point, so he decided it was his time to step into the spotlight. Who doesn’t go to a ballgame hoping an umpire—and one of the worst ones in the league at that—can take center stage?

The result in the top of the sixth: One hit, two walks, one alleged hit by a pitch, a balk, three runs and three ejections. It was a circus and Hernández was the zealous ringmaster.

It felt inevitable that Hernández should put his fingerprints all over the game. After making a bizarre out call the previous evening that cost the Royals a run, it was just a matter of time before he interjected himself into the game. The only surprise was that it took so long.

It was too bad because through the first five innings, Brady Singer shoved. His fastball had life and was humming at around 94 mph. He wasn’t missing a ton of bats but was getting a lot of soft contact. Of the first 15 outs he recorded, three were popups on the infield and six were ground balls (including one doubly play). He recorded just two strikeouts but was locating well.

Singer threw eight changeups, the most he’s thrown in a start this year. He only got one swing on the pitch—the comebacker Cesar Hernandez hit leading off the game—and only one called strike. Still, Singer liked how the pitch worked for him.

“I felt like I made some really good ones (pitches with his changeup). I don’t really think I made a bad one. They were laying off some that were low in the zone that looked really good to me. Looked like they had the right depth. I felt super comfortable with it.”

This is where Singer threw his change on Wednesday:

Singer offered the change on the first pitch to two batters and on the second pitch to five batters. It’s interesting that he would introduce the pitch so early in a plate appearance. And in a good way considering that for what we’ve seen in 2021 he’s been exclusively sinker/slider. From the chart above, he didn’t get squeezed on the pitch. The changeups down may have looked good to Singer but they were definitely out of the zone. The Cleveland hitters were able to lay off the pitch.

After the game Singer said he “didn’t like his slider” He was catching a lot of the zone with it and when Cleveland hitters made contact, it was hard. Perhaps most interesting was the fact that Singer didn’t get a single called strike on the pitch all night. If it was in the zone, Cleveland was swinging. They whiffed on four of 15 swings, which is a decent rate of 27 percent, but they also put eight in play with an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph.

Here’s where he spotted the slider:

Far too many were elevated in the zone. The double he allowed to Eddie Rosario in the sixth was a fat slider that followed three elevated sinkers. Probably not the place to deliver that particular pitch given the two that immediately proceeded it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Ump show breaks out at The K

The sixth inning opened innocuously enough. The Cleveland lineup flipped over for a third time and Hernandez led off with a hard liner to center for the first out. Singer then walked Jake Bauers on five pitches. All five were sinkers and all five were out of the zone.

It’s not difficult to tell when Singer gets a little miffed out there. He definitely wasn’t pleased that he missed so badly to Bauers. It wasn’t a good spot he put himself in with the heart of the Cleveland order coming up late in the game. Especially after the Royals just put two runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth to extend their lead to 4-0. So he did well to start José Ramírez off with a strike and battled to a 2-2 count. He came inside with another sinker…

Then all hell breaks loose. Hello, Ángel Hernández.

The Royals took a long time to decide to ask for a review. And the review was clear to just about everyone except the individual in New York…

There’s just a lot going on here. For starters, I’m not convinced the ball touched Ramírez. His black batting glove, holding on to a black bat against the black glove of Perez makes it difficult to tell.

But then if it did hit Ramírez, was it a swing? The way he threw his bat down along with his forward motion, bringing his hands down to try to avoid the pitch, would indicate that he was offering at the pitch. Obviously, he wasn’t swinging with intent. But he wouldn’t be the first hitter who “swung” the bat trying to avoid getting hit by a pitch. My first thought in real-time was that was a swing.

If it hit the handle of the bat the way the Royals’ broadcast thought, it was a foul tip that Perez was able to hold onto, making it strike three and the second out. Watching the replay, the way the ball slightly changes direction after it crosses under the handle would indicate that this is what happened.

This has become the Royals 2021 version of the Zapruder film.

So it feels like there were three possible outcomes from this event. Hernández behind the plate and the review team in New York got it wrong. As Terry Francona said he asked Hernández on Tuesday after his blown out call, “Why does this always happen when you're here?”

So instead of a runner on first and two out, it becomes a situation with runners on first and second and one down.

Remember how after the game Singer said he wasn’t liking his slider? He hung one to Eddie Rosario that plated both those runners.

Just a bad location coming off three consecutive elevated sinkers.

Singer then walked Franmil Reyes on four pitches. It felt like he was pitching around him which would be understandable. And then the balk happened. Called by Hernández behind the plate.

As much as I’d love to get after the ump, in this case, it was the correct call. Singer did flinch just before making the pickoff move to second. But then when you’re Ángel Hernández, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. And when you’ve been blowing calls and costing a team runs throughout a tense series, eventually, something is going to snap. In this case, it was Cal Eldred who had seen enough. And then Mike Matheny. And after Singer got a run-scoring ground out to cut the lead to 4-3 and was pulled for Scott Barlow, it was his turn.

By the end, Hernández left a trail of bodies in his wake.

It’s a shame there is no umpire accountability. Yeah, the fireworks were set off by a balk call, but that’s low-hanging fruit. It was frustration from an inning that careened out of control by an umpire who has consistently made mistakes making another poor call. To compound the frustration, the system in place to prevent those poor calls from impacting a game, failing yet again. You can’t help but wonder how the evening would’ve turned out had Singer been awarded an out instead of a runner being placed on base. And when that happens, you know you’re in the middle of an Ump Show.

The Royals bats went silent from that point. Cleveland pitching retired the last 14 hitters, 10 of them on strikeouts. The Royals bullpen served up a couple of dingers. Ramírez took Jakob Junis deep in the eighth to tie the game and Josh Naylor homered in the ninth off Wade Davis to provide the margin of victory.

That’s four consecutive losses. And the good April feelings have evaporated quickly once the calendar turned to May.

Central issues

  • White Sox 0, Reds 1 — 10 innings

An old-fashioned pitcher’s duel broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray with both starters going seven innings while allowing two hits. Keuchel’s performance was a bit of throwback as he struck out just a single batter over those seven frames.

Of course, the new extra-inning rule spoiled the fun as the Reds walked it off on a Jesse Winker single.

And after the game, this happened.

  • Tigers 6, Red Sox 5 — 10 innings

More extra-inning tomfoolery as the Tigers plate three in the top of the tenth and the Red Sox score two and ultimately fall short. Jeimer Candelario did the damage for Detroit with a three-run blast in the tenth. Casey Mize threw six innings of one-run ball. The Tigers snapped a six-game skid.

  • Rangers 3, Minnesota 1

Hyeon-Jong Yang whiffed eight Twins in 3 1/3 innings and the Rangers scored runs on a ground out, a sac fly and a wild pitch.

Up next

The Royals try to stop the skid and hang on to first place in the Central for another day. Danny Duffy gets the start. First pitch is 1:10.