If you were running an experiment about the merits of a replay system in baseball, this game was a petri dish full of bad calls.
For those who say that the number of missed calls tend to even out over the span of a 162-game season, Josh Rutledge added merit to that argument in the span of two innings.
In the third inning, Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe thought he had Rutledge tagged out in a rundown between second and third base. One television replay showed that Uribe was correct. Second-base umpire Larry Vanover had a bad angle and disagreed. He ruled Rutledge safe at second base. The next batter, Michael Cuddyer, singled to score Rutledge. Advantage Rockies.
In the fifth inning, Rutledge hit a ground ball between first and second base. Michael Young dove to his right, fed the ball to Brandon League in stride, and the pitcher tagged first base as Rutledge slid past the bag. First-base umpire Tony Randazzo called Rutledge out, but television replays showed he was safe. Cuddyer then singled and advanced two bases on wild pitches by League, but was stranded at third base when Wilin Rosario flew out to right field. Advantage Dodgers.
Do blown calls usually unfold so fairly, cancelling out runs so conveniently? No.
But consider how this might have played out in 2014 under baseball’s proposed replay system. Each manager gets one challenge in the first six innings, then two more beginning in the seventh. Would Walt Weiss and Don Mattingly have used their challenges on these plays? They should have. They were bad calls that determined whether or not a run was scored.
By the time D.J. LeMahieu took umbrage with a strike-three call in the bottom of the sixth inning — LeMahieu thought he foul-tipped the pitch from J.P. Howell; home plate umpire Brian Gorman disagreed — both managers might have used their lone first-through-sixth-inning challenge. Funny thing is, this blown call didn’t ultimately matter either, and for a novel reason: The umpires got together, talked it over, and got the call right, ruling that LeMahieu in fact foul-tipped the pitch.
There was another blown foul-tip/swinging strike call in the top of the seventh inning. This one went against Uribe. In 2014 the call could have been reviewed, since it came in the seventh inning. Uribe made amends by lining a single to right field.
All of this goes to say … I’m not sure what, exactly. On the one hand, this game featured four bad calls; figure in 2-3 minutes to review each and that’s a lot of time wasted to achieve the same result. On the other hand, this game featured four bad calls, and those are just the mistakes the camera caught. Instant replay has been used in Japan’s top league for decades and has been tinkered with and improved considerably in that time. Folks I’ve talked to say it results in fewer bad calls, a noble goal.
The transition to baseball’s new Replay State might be rough, but I’m reserving judgment beyond one year, until the system has had time to improve.
It’s probably wise to reserve judgment on Edinson Volquez, too. He allowed four runs in four innings at Coors Field in his first start for the Dodgers. The Dodgers’ six-game winning streak died in his hands. Was he tipping his pitches (again) or merely succumbing to the usual pitfalls of Coors Field? Could have been both.
Volquez’s next start is not guaranteed, and if this was his only audition he didn’t pass. It was a gamble the Dodgers could afford — the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Blue Jays to trim the vast gulf between first and second in the National League West to 12 ½ games.
Yasiel Puig appeared in the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter. He worked the count full but ultimately struck out against Manuel Corpas with two runners on base to end the inning.
The Dodgers will open their weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. Chris Capuano will start in place of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was scratched due to back stiffness but isn’t expected to miss another start.
The box score is here.