The Los Angeles Dodgers came to Coors Field on Friday night for what has been billed as an epic showdown between two of the three contenders for the National League West crown. Holding a 1.5-game lead in the division, the Colorado Rockies braced for impact in just the latest series in a line of “the biggest series of the season.”
The Dodgers are an old nemesis but it was a different Colorado Rockies foe that made an appearance at 20thand Blake early on Friday night.
On a night when Jon Gray didn’t have anywhere close to his best stuff and All-Star Nolan Arenado kept scuffling through arguably the worst slump of his career, it ended up being a call made two time zones away that made one of the biggest impacts on Friday night. Notice I put, “one of” in there. The call hurt Colorado’s chances … but it didn’t doom them to the loss.
Let’s talk about the call and then about the offense.
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Argue about what effect Arenado’s sore shoulder has on his swing or not, but Arenado told me after the game it didn’t play a role in an errant throw he made in the top of the fifth inning. Backing up to field a bounding ball off the bat of pinch hitter Alex Verdugo, Arenado heaved a wide toss that forced Ian Desmond to use every bit of his 6-foot-3 frame to not only catch but try to keep his toe on the bag.
On the play, Max Muncy scored from second, putting the Dodgers up 3-2 … or not?
Initially Verdugo was ruled safe. Slow motion replays appeared to show Desmond kept a toe on the bag while catching Arenado’s heave. MLB replay officials in New York didn’t see it that way, keeping Muncy as scoring the go-ahead run and Verdugo at first, much to the dismay of the Colorado portion of the 41,547 fans in attendance.
It capped a weird and pivotal fifth frame. Chris Rusin opened the inning with eight straight balls to put Manny Machado and Muncy on, then was called for a balk to move the Dodgers runners over one base. The balk was questioned by Rusin, catcher Drew Butera and manager Bud Black, who eventually was ejected by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher. It was Black’s second toss of the season.
Oh … and we haven’t even talked about an amazing play by Trevor Story, who fielded a grounder from Hernandez deep in the hole and fire a strike to Butera to nail Machado at the plate and temporarily keep the Rockies and Dodgers deadlocked. When talk of Story’s potential Gold Glove is discussed, rest assured that this play will be referenced.
Two walks. A balk. An ejection. A stellar defensive play. An error by the game’s best third baseman that didn’t look like an error on replay. The go-ahead run. A single. An insurance run.
Welcome to September baseball, it seems. It’s not always about just the best players but also sometimes the questionable calls that turn a game one way or the other.