The St. Louis Cardinals’ rough season didn’t get any help from the home plate umpire on Friday.
With the bases loaded and one run out against the Chicago Cubs, Alec Burleson was called for a pinch hit.
Michael Fulmer threw six straight pitches out of the zone to Burleson, but only the first three were called balls.
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Burleson faced a 3-0 count, needing just one more pitch out of the zone to tie the game.
Fulmer’s next pitch was a 91 mph sinker that just missed the outside corner, but was called a strike. And the next pitch wasn’t close.
Fulmer then fired an 87 mph cutter that Burleson thought was ball four, but umpire Ron Culpa called it a strike, resulting in a full count and some chatter from Burleson.
With the strike zone now stretched several inches, Fullmer threw a curveball down and away, and no one could blame Burleson for swinging at it given the previous two calls.
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Burleson made soft contact to shortstop Nico Horner, who turned a 6-6-3 double play.
Burleson was not happy.
Almost immediately after the inning ended, Burleson was yelling at Culpa from beyond first base, prompting an evacuation.
“At 3-0, I thought it was borderline, and I asked him if it was Kona, and he said ‘Yeah, it’s Kona.’ To me, that means you’re not going to get more (out) than that. And then (two strikes). So, that forced me to swing 3-2,” Burleson said after the game. via MLB.com.
The Cubs’ defense rallied to get out of the gym on first and second in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 victory.
With the loss, St. Louis fell to 44-54 after being the spring training favorite to win the NL Central for the second year in a row.
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The Cubs improved to 46-51.