Cubs win Game 1 … with help from first base umpire Alan Porter


The Giants didn’t score a run. The Cubs hit a ball over the left field wall and into a stupid basket. The Giants put the leadoff man aboard in each of the first three minutes, and two of the guys who reached were thrown out on the basepaths. Then, in the fourth inning, the Giants couldn’t score with runners on second and third and two out. Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto was humming away, with a limitless repertoire of windups and pitches, but one of the only mistakes he made cost the Giants the game.

Well, along with first base umpire Alan Porter.

Is there a judgment call in team sports made with less precision than a corner umpire judging whether or not a batter checked his swing? The only thing that comes close is when football officials “measure” for a first down after the ref who spotted the ball did it from a vantage point several yards away from the play.

An official’s spot after a fourth down play with less than a minute remaining in a one-score game isn’t just any old spot. A 3-2 check-swing in the ninth inning of a one-run game isn’t just any old check-swing, either.

I’ve only been watching baseball regularly for about 30 years, but I’ve noticed a pattern with most check-swing calls. If it’s really obvious the batter swung, the home plate umpire will raise his right fist without an appeal. If it’s fairly obvious, the first or third base umpire will raise his right fist after an appeal from the home plate umpire or the catcher. If it’s borderline, especially with two strikes, the safe sign is usually made with both arms.

I looked at the replay and the freeze frame above. My overriding sense is this one was too close to call, and in baseball the tie usually goes to the runner (or hitter, in this case). Yet Gorkys Hernandez was treated like a 29-year-old journeyman outfielder with less than a full season of big league experience going against the hardest-throwing closer we’ve ever seen. Aroldis Chapman got the benefit of the doubt, maybe in part due to pressure from the home crowd. Also, what actually constitutes a swing is about as clear as — sorry for dipping into football again, I swear this is the last time tonight — what constitutes a catch in the NFL.

It was infinitely more frustrating given the timing and the player affected. Hernandez is currently the team’s best speed threat with Eduardo Nunez hurting, and Buster Posey treats Chapman like a pitching machine spitting out 60 mph meatballs down the middle every time. But baseball is painful like that. Remember how many chances the Giants squandered on Wednesday, only to have all of those annoying scenarios forgotten with one swing of the bat by Conor Gillaspie? The Giants didn’t get that swing, and while Cueto was fantastic, he wasn’t quite as perfect as Bumgarner. Or Jon Lester, for that matter. He was damn good, though.

Extra BASGs

— Quote of the night:

— Hernandez made a tremendous sliding catch that no one else on the team could’ve made, and Kelby Tomlinson was awesome defensively. Not bad moves by Bochy, they just didn’t lead to runs. I doubt Denard Span and Joe Panik would’ve done much more off of Lester, who took 32 fewer pitches to get through eight innings than Cueto.

— Still, Cueto was awesome and if Brandon Crawford finds a way to get a hit instead of grounding out to short in the fourth inning, he’s the hero of this game. He’s still worth trusting if this series goes to five, that much we know.

— On that note, if you order one of our new shirts now, chances are it’ll get to your house/apartment before a possible Game 5. Just saying!




— Now it’s Jeff Samardzija’s job to somehow keep the Cubs to negative-1 runs or fewer tomorrow, since the Giants clearly can’t score at Wrigley Field this season and ERA champ Kyle Hendricks is on the mound for Chicago.

— Hendricks, 26, allowed four home runs over 8.2 innings in two postseason starts last year.

— Samardzija has pitched one postseason inning in his career, the eighth inning of an NLDS game against the Dodgers in 2008 when the Cubs were down 5-2. Samardzija did allow a run, but no homers! I’m not sure what my point is here, so let’s call it a night.

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