Nats: Cole, not calls, beat us in Game 5

October 28th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman took the question as an opportunity to squash an issue before it becomes a distraction or lingers into Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night.

Gerrit Cole beat them in Game 5 on Sunday night. Home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale did not.

“I think that’s the best way to put it,” Zimmerman said following a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Nationals Park, which handed Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. “I’ve known Lance for a long time. He’s a really good guy and a good umpire. If you want to talk about the strike zone, you can go ask him. But I don’t think anyone should blame Lance for what happened tonight. Gerrit beat us. He had great stuff. He pitched his butt off. He’s one of the best pitchers on the planet. That’s all I can say about that.”

But because the Nats scored just three runs in three games at home in the series, because they needed every break possible to beat a stud like Cole, they could not help but wonder what might have been if a few key calls in a few critical spots broke their way.

Washington right-hander appeared to strike out Carlos Correa on a 0-2 slider on the outside corner in the second inning, but Barksdale called the pitch a ball. Correa hit a two-run home run four pitches later to hand Houston a 4-0 lead.

“I’m not going not to sit here and talk about the umpire,” Nationals catcher said. “But the fact you’re asking the question, I think you’re answering it on your own. … I thought it was a very good pitch. I thought it was where we wanted it, yeah.”

appeared to strike out Michael Brantley on a 2-2 fastball down and away in the sixth inning. Gomes was about to throw the ball to third baseman , but Barksdale called the pitch a ball. Barksdale and Gomes talked about the pitch, with Gomes pointing to himself at one point. He seemed to be asking Barksdale if it was his fault he did not get the call.

“That’s a conversation I had between me and Lance,” Gomes said. “If any questions are about the umpire, I’m not going to talk about it, but I’ll keep saying -- the fact that you’re asking about it, you’re answering your own questions.”

Brantley flied out on the next pitch to for the first out in the inning.

Cole walked Zimmerman with two outs in the seventh inning, two batters after Soto hit a solo home run to cut the Astros’ lead to three. Cole thought the 2-2 pitch was on the corner for strike three, but Barksdale called the pitch a ball. But then struck out looking on a 3-2 fastball that was well out of the strike zone to end the inning. It probably should have been Cole’s second consecutive walk, giving the Nats hope at a late-game rally.

It might have even chased Cole from the game.

“We'll never know, will we?” said Astros manager AJ Hinch, asked if he would have pulled Cole from the game if Robles walked. “We'll never know. You know what? There's so much emotion that goes on in these plays, and depending on which side you are on, you're going to have that reaction of -- I haven't seen it on video. I know I saw their dugout reaction and I saw our dugout reaction on the Zimmerman pitch when he walked right before that. That's why I went out to the mound to calm Gerrit and [catcher Martín Maldonado] down. They both had a reaction the other way.”

Said Cole: “I felt that I did get fortunate on that call, but I thought that I was unfortunate on the 3-2 count previously.”

Nationals left-hander expressed his frustrations regarding a few borderline calls. But he echoed Zimmerman’s stance. Now is not the time to get caught up in stuff like this.

That is not where their focus should be.

“What we can’t do right now -- and I don’t think anybody in here is using it as an excuse or a crutch -- but it can’t be something that we’re thinking about,” said Doolittle. “I don’t think it’s going to be, knowing the character on this team. We’ve got to turn the page and come out ready to go in Game 6.”