There were numerous big moments in tonight’s Braves/Dodgers game, a 4-3 final that knotted the NLDS at one game apiece. Don Mattingly managing the seventh inning like it was his last…wait. Last? That should say first.
Don Mattingly managed the seventh inning — which his team entered down 2-1 and exited behind 4-1 after Donnie Baseball opted to work around Jose Costanza with a new pitcher then walk Reed Johnson to gain the platoon advantage against vastly superior and more platoon neutral Jason Heyward — like a man altogether unfamiliar with the nuances of the game.
But I digress, for this is not about Don Mattingly squeezing all life from the game while the opposition rallied. This is about the snuffing of the Dodgers last-ditch rally in the ninth inning.
No, Hanley Ramirez‘s home run did not kill the Dodgers’ rally. It brought them to within one run in the ninth inning. It brought the tying run to the plate. THAT IS THE PLATONIC IDEAL OF A RALLY. Ugh. More digression. Focus!
Craig Kimbrel was not quite himself after Fredi Gonzalez asked him to record four whole outs in pursuit of a playoff win. Kimbrel walked A.J. Ellis with one out in the top of the ninth inning. Dee Gordon came on to pinch run. More accurately, Dee Gordon came on to try and get himself into scoring position.
Kimbrel is a typical power pitcher with little-to-no interest in his time to the plate. He held Gordon as close as he could but, on the first pitch, off the Dodgers slight shortstop went for second base.
The throw from substitute catcher Gerald Laird was into the runner and low, but Andrelton Simmons picked it out of the dirt beautifully, keeping his glove down and close to the sliding Gordon. The second base umpire, perfectly positioned, made his call: out.
There you go, watch that GIF as many times as you want. Can you tell, definitely, that Simmons applied the tag before Gordon touched the bag? After this incredibly tough call, fans howled for video replay, as if a few video coordinators could make chicken salad out of the…available camera angles.
Video replay won’t be perfect for a long, long time. That is not a reason to fear or oppose it but we cannot pretend that flipping a switch and changing the rules will reduce the number of blown calls from “very few” to “nil.” It’s a tough racket, trying to perfectly position cameras to capture high speed action which happens in three dimensions in real time.
One national writer tweeted out the header image accompanying this post along with the declarative statement “he was out, folks.” How can anyone believe this is fact from watching one single still image in which there is no tag applied?
Umpiring is a tough, tough gig. Change is welcome but video replay won’t wipe blown calls from the Earth in one fell swoop. Hopefully, this close play at second base in the ninth inning doesn’t overshadow all the other elements that made this the first tight, well-played and entertaining game of the playoffs. No way should Don Mattingly get off that easy.