With the Mets clinging to a one-run lead in the 18th inning on Saturday night in Milwaukee, they hoped they could get one more scoreless inning from Chris Flexen -- their last pitcher in the bullpen, both in a figurative and literal sense.
Flexen walked Eric Thames to open the inning, got Mike Moustakas to fly out for the first out, and walked Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second.
Travis Shaw then stepped to the plate and Flexen threw three of four pitches for strikes. The only problem? Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez ruled that all four were balls. Shaw was awarded first base, the tying run moved to third base, and the winning run moved to second base.
Chris Flexen just struck a dude out and got ZERO strike calls from the home plate umpire in a game that's 5 and a half hours deep and the pitching team has the lead. UNBELIEVABLE. pic.twitter.com/GqDBGaYVrS- Stephen DadJokesiah (@StephenJosiah13) May 5, 2019
Your eyes weren't deceiving you if you were watching live and thought strikes were being called balls. And every pitch tracker showed three of the four "balls" to Shaw were strikes:
This seems like a reasonable strike zone in the 18th inning 🙄 pic.twitter.com/gSPy5MAxzG- Pete McCarthy (@thePeteyMac) May 5, 2019
This is not to say that Flexen -- who allowed a two-run game-winning single to Ryan Braun after walking Shaw -- would have escaped the jam if Hernandez made the right calls. But in a tie game in the 18th inning, the fact that the strike zone all of a sudden shrunk is absolutely outrageous.
And the fact that it was Hernandez -- rated as one of the worst umpires in baseball and currently the plaintiff in a discrimination lawsuit against the league -- makes it worse.
To add a bit more to Hernandez' incredible shrinking strike zone in the bottom of the 18th inning...
It's one thing if an umpire is calling a bigger zone for most of the night and then tightens it a bit, but to tighten it to the point where three actual strikes are called balls in the same at-bat? In a moment where that at-bat helped decide the outcome of the game? That's inexcusable, and is something the league should be looking into.