The fourth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday at Globe Life Field could have been a nightmare for the Dodgers. But a key double play -- fueled by another questionable Braves baserunning decision -- allowed Los Angeles to stay within one, setting the stage for a 4-3 comeback victory and a trip to the World Series.
“Getting that double play right there started it to kind of keep the game where it’s at,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Entering the top of the fourth locked in a 2-2 tie, the Dodgers fell behind when Tony Gonsolin walked two batters and allowed an RBI single to Austin Riley. That prompted Roberts to turn to sinkerballer Blake Treinen in the hopes of inducing a double play.
Treinen did, though almost certainly not in the way Roberts envisioned. The next batter, Nick Markakis, grounded a ball to the left side, where third baseman Justin Turner gloved it and fired home to catch Dansby Swanson in a rundown that ended with a fully extended Turner diving to tag Swanson. That should have been the end of it, but as Turner was in the process of tagging out Swanson, Riley broke for third base. Turner leapt to his feet, whirled and fired to shortstop Corey Seager, who had sprinted over to cover the bag in time to get a sliding Riley.
“I didn’t even need to [yell to him],” Seager said. “J.T.’s a baseball-savvy guy. He sees the field so well, and what he did right there in that moment, it was a lot of fun. It was really cool to be a part of.”
The impact of the play was measurable, as it boosted the Dodgers’ win expectancy from 23.2 percent before the play to 39.7 percent after it.
“The acumen that Justin has with baseball, just to kind of understand that there’s a trail runner to get Riley at third base, too, was just huge,” Roberts said.
Added right fielder Mookie Betts, “For him to have the presence of mind to dive, tag him and throw the guy out at third, that’s huge. … They shut it down after that. That’s a big momentum shift, for sure.”
With those two outs in his pocket, Treinen retired Christian Pache to end the inning. The Dodgers escaped with minimal damage, trailing the Braves, 3-2.
They scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead for the comeback win.
A shining defensive moment for Los Angeles was another Atlanta’s third baserunning mistake in as many games.
The Braves had a two-run lead in the third inning of Game 5 before a baserunning miscue began a momentum shift in favor of the Dodgers. With Marcell Ozuna on third base, Dansby Swanson sent a fly ball into right field, where Betts made one of his head-turning catches. Ozuna would have scored on the sacrifice fly, but he left third base early. A potential 3-0 lead became an inning-ending double play after review, and Seager hit a leadoff homer the following frame to start the Dodgers’ comeback.
The following evening, while trailing, 3-0, in the sixth inning of Game 6, the Braves' Ozzie Albies thought he had been tagged out by first baseman Max Muncy approximately 15 feet ahead of the bag. Muncy had dropped the ball, though, and Albies had a chance at being safe and putting a runner on with one out. Instead, Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler recovered the ball and applied the tag as Albies rounded first to make his way back to the dugout, thinking he had already been tagged out.
The Braves and Dodgers will look back on these moments with different perspectives, as replays of Turner’s double play are sure to be flashed across highlight reels.
"It was huge,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It's hard to score runs in the postseason. It's just a situation where when the infield is back, you see the ball up the middle. We're usually a good baserunning team. We just did some fundamental things wrong."