Sometimes, a baseball game’s outcome hinges on a brilliant piece of hitting or a dazzling display of defense, the stuff out of movies and television where everyone knows that it’s The Moment and one team rises to it and the other does not. This is not exactly how the Orioles beat the Nationals on Monday night.
There are other times where, when you get down to it, the team that loses does so because at the time of The Moment, the Nationals players on the field combined to look like dopes and the alert Orioles fielders capitalized on this miscue. How else can you explain the game-ending TOOTBLAN?
There can be some debate over which runner was the bigger nincompoop, but there’s no doubt that nincompoopery was on display.
When pinch hitter Brian Goodwin came to the plate with one out and the tying run on second base against Brad Brach, you were probably feeling less than 76.2% confident that the Orioles would win the game, but as far as the Fangraphs Win Probability graph is concerned, that’s where the Orioles were.
Although a base hit would have likely tied the game, it’s hard to hit a baseball. All comebacks are unlikely for this reason, making the worst of them, like the recent one we shall not speak of, hurt all the more.
Goodwin, a lefty, was actually collecting his first MLB plate appearance of the season. Why did Nationals manager Dusty Baker choose him against Brach in that spot? Perhaps he was hoping that a lefty would have a bit of an advantage against Brach compared to his starter, righty Michael A. Taylor.
In very Orioles fashion, Goodwin came up swinging at the first pitch, a ground ball to the right side that Orioles first baseman Chris Davis fielded about 75% of the way back on the infield dirt, just inside of the chalk. Davis jogged to first base to record the second out, and that seemed like it should have been that.
Not so fast! The Nationals runners on second and third base were not on the same page. The runner on third, Adam Lind, who singled earlier in the inning, did not break for home despite the ground ball being to the right side and the Orioles infield playing back.
The pinch runner on second, Trea Turner, who ran for Matt Wieters, was most of the way to third base before coming to the unfortunate (for him) realization that Lind hadn’t gone anywhere. This is the stuff of which those old “Wanna get away?” commercials were made.
Davis crossed the infield with the easy, almost disdainful stride of a predator who knows easy prey is lined up. He tossed the ball to J.J. Hardy at second base, who then chased Turner back towards the occupied third base. Lind was forced to wander off of third base because if he didn’t, the game would end when Turner arrived at third regardless.
Hardy, on the move, caught Lind flat-footed between third and home, so he dashed between Lind and third base, chased him down, and tagged him with the ball, ending the game.
One pitch, two outs is almost as good as it gets for a defending team. But if Goodwin had put a better swing on this pitch, it might have ended differently:
Catcher Caleb Joseph had been set up at Goodwin’s knees and outside. The pitch leaked a bit up and towards Goodwin. That’s often bad news, but it’s hard to hit a baseball that’s coming at you at 94mph.
Goodwin wasn’t wrong to swing at this pitch, but he still rolled over on it and ended up with a ground ball to Davis rather than getting the sweet line drive a better swing would have gotten. And so the game ended.
In writing some of these play of the game features earlier in the season, my intent in picking them was to do so without any subjectivity at all. Whoever had the play with the highest percentage of positive movement towards the O’s winning (or, in a loss, towards them losing) would get the credit. But who deserves the credit for this play?
Is it Brach, who threw the pitch that resulted in the game-ending double play? Is it Davis, who got the first out and alertly capitalized on the Nationals mistake and initiated the rundown? Is it Hardy, who finished the job and tagged out Lind to end the game? Should they all three split the credit? My original vision for this feature did not involve split credit, but then, I didn’t envision a play quite like this, either.
Or perhaps should the play be tossed entirely, since it was more a result of Nationals TOOTBLAN than any particular good thing an Orioles player did. If that’s the case, the next biggest needle-mover was Trey Mancini’s first inning home run, which bumped up the O’s chance of winning by 13.2%.
This is a decision too great to be left in the hands of one person. I leave it in your hands with the poll below. Make your case in the comments below. Choose carefully! Whichever choice has the most votes when the poll closes at the end of today will be the winner for Monday’s game.
Season total - wins (pending poll result)
- 5 - Trey Mancini
- 2 - Mark Trumbo, Zach Britton, Seth Smith, J.J. Hardy
- 1 - Hyun Soo Kim, Jonathan Schoop, Dylan Bundy, Adam Jones, Caleb Joseph, Manny Machado, Gabriel Ynoa
Season total - losses
- 2 - Kevin Gausman, Mychal Givens
- 1 - Dylan Bundy, Tyler Wilson, Wade Miley, Brad Brach, Ubaldo Jimenez, Richard Bleier
Who gets credit for the game-ending double play from May 8’s Orioles win?
This poll is closed
Brad Brach (threw the pitch)
Chris Davis (got one out, started rundown)
J.J. Hardy (finished rundown)
Split the credit between Brach, Davis, Hardy
None of the above; go with Mancini’s dinger