Umpire Ángel Hernández made history with a missed call during Friday's game between the Rangers and Astros. Mar 23, 2022; Jupiter, Florida, USA; MLB third base umpire Angel Hernandez waives to some fans in the 4th inning of the spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There is only one Ángel Hernández. If you’re a baseball fan, chances are good that you already knew that. But in case you didn’t or had somehow forgotten, Hernández provided a reminder on Friday night.

Hernández was the home plate umpire in Friday’s ALCS rematch between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, Texas rookie Wyatt Langford dug in to face Houston’s struggling pitcher, J.P. France. France missed on his first two pitches and fell behind 2-0. He missed on the third pitch — but Hernández called it a strike. France’s next pitch was also wide. Hernández called that a strike, as well.

France’s 2-2 offering was further outside than either of the previous two pitches. Again, Langford took the pitch. Again, Hernández called it a strike. While the Texas announcers were particularly tough on Hernández, announcers from both teams made it clear that the calls were bad.

Following the game, we learned just how bad it was.

Umpire Auditor, which grades umpire performances, posted about the sequence after the game. The called third strike on Langford was not just the worst of the three calls — but the worst called third strike it had ever graded.

“Umpire Angel Hernandez rang up Wyatt Langford on three consecutive pitches out of the zone,” the tweet said. “The strikeout pitch missed outside by 6.78 inches. This was the largest miss on a called strikeout in Umpire Auditor history.”

A potential defense here is that it was an 8-1 game. And if this was in the eighth or ninth inning, that might hold water. Certainly, Hernández wouldn’t be the first umpire to widen his strike zone in a blowout. But it was the fourth inning. And while the Rangers did win the game, the Astros managed to get to eight runs — the total Texas had at the time of the bad calls. So, while the game was not close, it was also not over.

What also makes this worse is that when umpires widen their strike zones, it tends to be for pitchers who have proven themselves. Quite simply, if a pitcher shows he can throw strikes, the umpire will look for strikes. If he can’t, the umpire will look for balls.

To that point, France had already walked four hitters in 3.1 innings. Beyond that, he was down 2-0 to Langford. And in a shocking turn of events, Hernández’s calls on those two pitches were right on the money. So, what changed?

If you’re going to be bad at something, you might as well go all the way.

[Umpire Auditor on Twitter/X]

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