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One hates it when any game official becomes a big part of the story, but this series has seen its share of controversial calls.
In the middle of Sunday's Game 2, Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa (in quite a calculated way while speaking to the TBS telecast between innings) blasted home plate umpire Jerry Meals for having one strike zone for Phillies' pitcher Cliff Lee and a tighter one for his own ace, Chris Carpenter.
As it turned out, Lee, Carpenter and Meals all had tough evenings at the park.
It appeared (and I'm trying to view this with complete objectivity) that LaRussa's gambit worked. Cliff Lee seemed to not get any borderline strike calls after TLR's outburst.
Did that decide the outcome of the game? Perhaps not, but it was almost impossible to decipher the umpire's strike zone that night.
In Game 4, the Phillies streaked to a 2-0 run lead in the top of the first behind a double by Jimmy Rollins, a triple by Chase Utley and a single by Hunter Pence. With no outs, they were poised for a huge inning against Edwin Jackson, and then it happened.
With a full count to slugger Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence got a healthy jump off first. A few seconds later, there were two outs and nobody on, thanks to a dreaded (or welcomed, depending on your point of view) strikeout double play. Talk about a pitcher's best friend.
Great play by the Cardinals? Maybe. Only, it appeared that the pitch was six inches outside and the swipe tag by shortstop Rafael Furcal (which should have been rendered irrelevant by ball four) was late.
Two points here: I am not making a case for the extension of instant replay in baseball.
The Phillies certainly have played a role in killing their own big innings this series, but it says here that the umpires got two big calls wrong on one play, effectively killing what could have been a bigger start.
The hope here is that neither team suffers from poor calls on Friday night.