When the Dodgers entered Philadelphia to open up a three-game set against the Phillies, the two teams were on wildly divergent paths. The Phillies had lost 19 of 24 games since the All-Star break while the Dodgers had won 23 of 26. In the first two games of the Phillies, they did exactly as they should — they dominated the Phillies with two consecutive shut-outs, 4-0 behind Zack Greinke and 5-0 behind Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers staked starter Ricky Nolasco to an early 2-0 lead in the series finale this afternoon, but a solo home run by Darin Ruf and an RBI ground out by Cody Asche left the game tied going into the seventh. Both bullpens held serve going into the bottom of the ninth, when the Dodgers called on Brandon League to bring them to extra innings.
Paco Rodriguez struck out Asche to lead off the inning before giving way to Brandon League. Casper Wells hit what appeared to be a routine ground out to Ramirez at shortstop, but Ramirez’s throw was short and first baseman Jerry Hairston couldn’t corral it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz punched a single to right field to push Wells to third base. Controversially, manager Don Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Rather than let Michael Martinez hit, new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg pinch-hit with Michael Young, who did not start due to an aching Achilles. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Young hit what appeared to be a dead double play ball, but Ramirez bobbled it as he preemptively positioned himself to make the throw to second, allowing Wells to score the winning run. For those of you counting at home, that was ninth-inning error number two Ramirez.
It is certainly not the way the Dodgers wanted to be leaving Philadelphia, but the good news is that they will have a great opportunity to continue expanding their lead in the NL West as they open a four-game set against the Marlins in Miami.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: