The Philadelphia Phillies lost their first series in August on Sunday, dropping a 3-0 contest to the Minnesota Twins (box score) that included some questionable strike-three calls by home plate umpire Alex MacKay.
You should always begin a story as near the end as possible. In this instance, that means skipping to the bottom of the seventh. That's when MacKay called out Alec Bohm on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs. Observe:
Do note that MacKay calling that pitch a ball would've plated a run. It would've also led to Bryce Harper batting with the bases loaded in a one-run game. In other words, there was a lot more riding on that call than just honoring the strike zone.
Keeping in mind that these things can be distorted by various factors -- the parallax, the normalized strike zone, how the catcher receives the pitch -- but Bohm did appear to have reason for reacting as he did. Alas, MacKay ejected Bohm all the same, forcing Edmundo Sosa to take over at the hot corner.
Here's Bohm addressing reporters after the game:
Alec Bohm to @ACPressMcGarry on how much the seventh-inning call affected the game: “I mean, you’ve got Bryce Harper coming up with the bases loaded down one. So, as much as that affects the game, I guess we’ll never know what would have happened.” pic.twitter.com/rtiZksApjg— Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) August 13, 2023
The Phillies' problems with MacKay would continue into the eighth. That's when the aforementioned Harper was rung-up on this pitch:
The Phillies/Twins game is heating up!— Talkin' Twins ⚾️ (@TalkinTwins) August 13, 2023
After Alec Bohm was ejected in the 7th, Phillies manager Rob Thomson has now been ejected in the 8th after Bryce Harper is called out looking at a 3rd strike just off the plate.#RingTheBell #MNTwins pic.twitter.com/sEkF9nTFbK
MacKay's call on Harper certainly looks more defensible in other displays than it did on the broadcast. Still, that didn't stop manager Rob Thomson from giving MacKay a piece of his mind, prompting an ejection of his own.
According to the popular UmpScorecard website, this was MacKay's 13th game of the season. He had previously ranked below the league-average marks in accuracy and consistency. MacKay is a "call-up" umpire, and began the season in Triple-A.
The Phillies now have an 8-5 record in August. They'll have Monday off before beginning a five-game road trip on Tuesday with stops in Toronto against the Blue Jays and then in Washington to take on the Nationals.