Last night, the Cubs beat the Dodgers to force a Game 5, largely thanks to a grueling six-out save from All-Star closer Wade Davis.
It took Davis nine batters and 48 pitches to get his six outs last night, and it was every bit as laborious as that sounds. In fact, it was even worse than your standard 48-pitch, two-inning save (is there even such a thing?), because Davis was forced to stand on the mound twiddling his thumbs as the umpires discussed how badly they could blow a particular call.
Let me set the stage.
After coming in to shut things down in the 8th, Davis promptly gave up a towering homer to Justin Turner, bringing the game within a single run. Then, Yasiel Puig followed that up with a walk and Andre Ethier popped up in foul territory.
With one out and Puig on first, Davis brought Curtis Granderson to two strikes and (should have) finished him off with this swinging strike three:
Curtis Granderson didn't make contact here…right? pic.twitter.com/KKJKn46kUH
— Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) October 19, 2017
Except even after the home plate umpire accurately called it strike three, he assembled a crew meeting when Granderson and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts argued that it was actually a foul tip. Clearly, it wasn’t a foul ball to everyone at home (or with eyes), but that was the argument they made. And the assembled umpires agreed.
They were extremely wrong. There’s so much space between the ball and the bat:
OK, so just fix it on replay, right?
Although the umpires are permitted to conference to overturn the correct original call, they were not allowed to use instant replay to review a foul tip. So, somehow, the home plate ump got it right, and then the rest of the umpires came to the conclusion – based on “hearing two sounds” – that Granderson made contact with the pitch, and, thus, the at-bat would continue without further review. Yikes.
Joe Maddon, as you can imagine, was beyond himself and went out to argue before eventually getting tossed out of the game for the second time this postseason:
Davis was able to strike Granderson out on the very next pitch and eventually get out of the inning, but make no mistake, the downtime was a huge blow to the Cubs, who were hoping to get Davis in and out of that inning as fast as possible (so that he could be and feel fresh for the ninth).
For what it’s worth, the home plate umpire later admitted that he made a mistake:
— Jay Cohen (@jcohenap) October 19, 2017
Of course, that didn’t give Maddon much solace, even as he discussed the events after the Cubs won:
— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) October 19, 2017
At least, at a minimum, we all get the mental image of Joe Maddon running out of the locker room in his jock strap after being tossed out of the game. That would’ve been something to remember.
In any case, the clear issue here is that, for some reason, some plays are over-turnable … but not reviewable. That gap needs to disappear. I’m all for getting the call right, but if you’re going to let an umpire change a decision, why shouldn’t he be allowed to have all the evidence? And if you don’t want foul balls to be reviewable for timeliness (or whatever), then they shouldn’t be overturn-able. It really feels like common sense, but what do I know?
So, ultimately, it’s fine – Davis got out of it, the Cubs won, etc. – but it was a very, very bad call that nearly cost the Cubs the series. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.