The St. Louis Cardinals‘ rough season did not get any help from a home plate umpire Friday.
With the bases loaded and one out down a run against the Chicago Cubs, Alec Burleson was called on to pinch hit.
Michael Fulmer threw six straight pitches out of the zone to Burleson, but only the first three were called balls.
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 it 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 Kulpa ruled it a strike, leading to a full count and some chatter from Burleson.
With the strike zone expanded several inches now, Fulmer threw a curveball low and away, and one can’t blame Burleson for swinging at it given the previous two calls.
Burleson made soft contact to shortstop Nico Hoerner, who turned a 6-6-3 double play.
Burleson was not happy.
Almost immediately after the inning was over, Burleson was shouting at Kulpa from well beyond first base, prompting an ejection.
“On 3-0, I thought it was borderline, and I asked him if it was corner, and he said ‘Yeah, that’s the corner.’ To me, that means you’re not going anymore (outside) than that. And then (strike two). So, that forced me to swing 3-2,” Burleson said after the game, via MLB.com.
The Cubs defense buckled down in the top of the ninth, getting out of a first-and-second jam for a 4-3 victory.
With the loss, St. Louis dropped to 44-54 after being spring training favorites to win the NL Central for a second consecutive year.
The Cubs improved to 46-51.