One of MLB's most polarizing umpires was at the center of attention once again on Sunday night.
Veteran ump Angel Hernandez was calling balls and strikes for the Brewers-Phillies game on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," and after a series of debatable calls throughout the game, one missed call in the Phillies' final turn at-bat sent them over the edge.
The scene unfolded when, with the Brewers leading 1-0 in the ninth inning, Hernandez punched out Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber for a called third strike during his plate appearance against stud Milwaukee closer Josh Hader.
ESPN's strike zone showed the pitch appeared to be a couple inches low and outside, but Hernandez didn't seem to see it that way. Schwarber promptly lost his cool, slamming down his bat and helmet and heatedly protesting the called strike on what should have been ball four for a one-out walk.
Hernandez immediately tossed Schwarber for arguing balls and strikes. The 29-year-old former Cubs and Red Sox star got his money's worth, though, putting on a fiery show for the home crowd at Citizens Bank Park. Manager Joe Girardi came out for an explanation, but it didn't make a difference with respect to the inning-changing call.
After the game, Schwarber explained where he was coming from, suggesting he was sticking up for his teammates after Hernandez had drawn the ire of his teammates on a couple occasions earlier in the game.
"It's a big spot there," Schwarber said. "You're going up against a really good closer, and you get a pitch that you don't think is there. You can be on first base in a spot in the ninth inning down one. That's why I went ... I mean, everyone kind of saw what was going on. I'm not here to bury anyone, but it wasn't very good. I don't know how to really say it. It just wasn't very good. Guys were doing a really good job tonight of not saying much. It just got to me to where I was going to stick up for some other guys."
Girardi, for his part, indicated the tough display of umpiring might be symptomatic of the need to change the way balls and strikes are called.
"Well, I wouldn't mind it," Girardi said of moving home-plate umpires behind the pitcher's mound. "I wouldn't. I've always thought that umpires should be behind the pitcher. I think you're much better there, and you're more protected. [Behind the plate] they have to move to the side a little bit because they can't have 20 concussions. It's their livelihood, too, and I understand why they do it."