The New York Mets eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 3-2 Game 5 win of the NLDS to advance in the playoffs.
In what was ultimately a pitching duel between Zach Greinke and Jacob deGrom, the Dodgers committed two small, but odd, errors in the fourth inning that may have cost them the game.
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning, Mets second basemen Daniel Murphy hit a single to start the inning off.
After Yoenis Cespedes flew out, first basemen Lucas Duda walked, moving Murphy to second base. However, during the at bat, the Dodgers were in a shift, leaving third base uncovered. They were slow to get back to their positions, and Murphy took advantage, stealing third:
- Via ESPN
With Dodgers third basemen Justin Turner not covering third base, Murphy got an easy steal.
Confounding matters is the type of shift the Dodgers went into. Rather than shifting all of the infielders over to the right, the Dodgers moved Turner all the way over to the area between the first baseman and the second baseman, so that the second baseman and shortstop could stay in their normal positions.
However, after the play, while Turner is way out of position, Seager moved even farther away from the third base bag, presumably to talk to someone, leaving Murphy with an even bigger gap.
Here’s the original shift position during Duda’s at bat:
- Via MLB
And here are the infielders as Murphy stole third:
- Via MLB
Just two pitches later, with one out and a runner on third, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a fly ball to right field for a sac fly to score Murphy. However, Andre Eithier caught the ball in foul territory.
- Via ESPN
If Eithier doesn’t catch the ball, it’s a foul, and Murphy doesn’t advance to score the game-tying run. Instead, d’Arnaud’s sac-fly worked, and the Mets tied the game.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers said on ESPN radio:
“You let that ball drop 100%. As a 1-run game written all over it, it takes a smart player. I’ve talked to [Chicago Cubs manager Joe] Maddon about this play. Here’s the test: Is the other team happy with your decision? Of course they’ll trade an out for a run. Game 5, with those two pitchers, it has 1-run game written all over it.”
It’s tough to expect a fielder to make that split-second decision while running after the ball, but it can be argued that Ethier should have considered the possibility before the play, knowing a long fly ball is a guaranteed run for the Mets and risk of not taking the out is a good one to take.
Murphy came through again in the sixth inning with a solo home run that put the Mets up for good.
The Mets pitching dominated the second half of the game, and the Dodgers were unable to get their offense going to tie up the game.
With a long offseason ahead, the Dodgers may dwell on two simple plays that helped end their season.