There is an old saying that stick with me after events like Game 2 of the World Series: “If an umpire does their job properly, no one will ever know their name.”
Blake Snell was absolutely fantastic during his first outing of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It may have been the performance of his life and he was absolutely cruising. The former Cy Young award winner had a no-hit performance against one of the best offenses in baseball through four and two-thirds innings pitched.
It was also a performance that placed among some of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen; Snell became just the third pitcher to have two strikeouts in four consecutive innings, joining Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.
However, when history looks back on this performance and sees it in the boxscore, it will show that Snell pitched only 4 2⁄3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits, striking out nine and walking four.
Enter: Todd Tichenor
Prior to Wednesday’s game, I had no idea who Todd Tichenor was; now, I loathe him.
According to the twitter account Umpire Scorecards, Todd Tichenor had an absolutely horrid night behind the plate. For his part, Tichenor was extremely accurate outside of the zone, calling 84 of 86 balls correctly. It’s when a pitcher dared enter the zone, when it became a problem.
When a pitch was in the zone, Tichenor got the call wrong a stunning 1/4th of the time. He real problem was the bottom of the zone where it seems he just could not accurately judge that a pitch was a strike.
So let’s see where it all went wrong for Blake Snell and Todd Tichenor.
The moment that mattered
With two outs in the fifth inning, Enrique Hernandez stepped up to the plate to face a dominating Snell. Snell had just carved through AJ Pollock with ease and looked to complete his fifth inning on the mound.
The first pitch Snell used against Hernandez was a change-up that dropped well off the outside edge of the plate and below the zone, falling behind in the count, 1-0. Snell stuck with the change for the next pitch and threw it in a perfect spot, locating it perfectly at the bottom of the zone; unfortunately, it would be called a ball, thus falling behind, 2-0.
Snell finally got a strike with another change that came across the outside, or possibly just outside the zone; never the less, it was called a strike, 2-1.
With his next offering, Snell is able to perfectly locate a curveball, dropping right on top of the zone. Unfortunately, the top of the zone seemingly disappeared in the eyes of home plate umpire Todd Tichenor as he called the perfectly executed curveball a ball, 3-1.
Over the course of the night, there were 44 pitches that came across the top of the standard strike zone; three of those were called a ball, including this offering by Snell. Here’s that full sequence getting Snell to a 3-1 count:
Then, Snell just straight up lost Hernandez rather than give him a solid 3-1 offering to hit as he missed low and inside, well off the plate, giving Hernandez the free pass.
Next up was Chris Taylor, who Snell started off with a fastball right down the middle. His next pitch was another perfectly located change-up at the bottom of the zone that Tichenor again decided was too low and called it for a ball. Snell missed badly to make it 2-1 a pitch later.
He still wasn’t going to give in to Taylor though, and on the 2-1 pitch Snell looked to drop in a curveball with the hopes of evening up the count or possibly to induce weak contact as he threw it off the plate.
Unfortunately, Taylor was able to stay back on the breaking pitch as it broke over the outside edge of the plate, or possibly beyond it. Taylor reached out and barreled the ball and sent it soaring to the opposite field, landing just beyond the wall in right-center field for a two run homerun, the first hit given up on Snell during the game.
The best player in the game right now, Mookie Betts, was up next and he would also be the beneficiary of small, possibly nonexistent strike zone as Snell lost a chance get ahead of him in the count after a slider on the inside corner was called for a ball. Snell would eventually lose Betts and walk him.
Snell stayed well within the zone to the next hitter, Corey Seager, but would allow his second hit, a hit that ultimately ended his night on the mound. Seager’s base hit put runners on the corners with two outs with the score, 5-2. With that in mind, Kevin Cash brought in his top reliever Nick Anderson to get out of the jam, which he did.
Despite a willingness to initially express frustration on the field with the FOX broadcast, Snell was more subdued following the game. When asked about the tight strike zone and if he was feeling frustrated in the fifth inning, he refused to grab the bait as he claimed the reporter was trying to get him in trouble, saying: “You trying to get me in trouble, that’s what you’re trying to do.”
Blake Snell talks about his performance, the game plan he had against the Dodgers, the 5th inning, pitching with the lead and more after the @RaysBaseball win Game 2 of the #WorldSeries.— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) October 22, 2020
Watch the postgame show on FOX Sports Sun & FOX Sports Go: https://t.co/EYn2Dm5A9P#RaysUp pic.twitter.com/mSeVkQfqww
Snell would later admit that he was frustrated with the walks and with the count he found himself in against the opposing hitters, but never brought up the tight zone, instead saying that he no problem with Kevin Cash removing him from the game given the situation that he was in.
The World Series continues Friday night with game three between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers commencing at 8:00 p.m. EST, where someone else will be calling balls and strikes.