WASHINGTON -- The drama began to unfold the instant Ryan Zimmerman's rocket double headed toward the left-field corner.With the Nationals clinging to a one-run lead in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night, Jayson Werth -- on first at the time -- began his dash around
WASHINGTON -- The drama began to unfold the instant Ryan Zimmerman's rocket double headed toward the left-field corner.
With the Nationals clinging to a one-run lead in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night, Jayson Werth -- on first at the time -- began his dash around the bases with two outs. Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles raced toward the baseball, and fired it into shortstop Corey Seager. As Werth rounded second base, he picked up Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley, who advised Werth -- perhaps inexplicably, certainly incorrectly -- to head for home.
Werth was a sitting duck at the plate. The sixth inning was over. Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson homered on the first pitch of the next frame, and the Dodgers went on to a 4-3 victory. Los Angeles will face the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, with Game 1 set for Saturday (8 p.m. ET/5 PT on FS1).
:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage ::
"We've been aggressive all year as a club, and I took a shot at it," Henley said. "Toles had to make a good throw to Seager, and then he had to make a good throw. And they did. I think after the fact, hindsight, do I wish I could have it back? Well, yeah."
Via Statcast™, the hindsight isn't especially kind to Henley and the Nationals. Werth was only 25 feet past third base when Seager released his relay throw. The distance of that throw -- 134.6 feet -- is about the same distance as the throw shortstops typically make on routine ground balls.
"I was [surprised]," said Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, who applied the tag. "Obviously the play is developing right in front of me. I'm seeing the huge margin that we have him out by. I think Seager had the ball in his hands before he touched third."
Not quite, but Grandal really wasn't too far off.
Of course, Toles played no small part in making sure Werth had no chance. The left fielder covered 100 feet in 4.9 seconds -- hitting a 20.8 mph top speed with a 98.3 percent route efficiency. For context, when outfielders had to travel 100 feet in 4.9 seconds to make a catch this season, they completed the play less than half the time (46 percent, to be exact).
Gif: Werth runs the bases poorly, gets out at home
"He hit it into the corner ... and I had to run over there and get it," Toles said. "I had to make a good throw to Corey. He got it in, and we got an out. ... If he would've scored, it would've been a different game."
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the play, however, occurred before contact. On the season, Werth averaged a secondary lead of 15.2 feet. On this particular play, he was only 11.1 feet off the bag.
Why, exactly? Well, Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías is well known for his sneaky pickoff move: An inning earlier, he nabbed Bryce Harper. Werth wasn't taking any chances.
"They have to be [cautious]," said Dodgers first baseman Adrián González. "They've got to respect that. So they've got to stay close, and they've got to be [leaning] one way back to the base."
Of course, even without the out at home, there's a chance the Dodgers escape that inning unscathed anyway, with Danny Espinosa -- a .202 hitter against left-handed pitching in 2016 -- due up against Urias.
In some regards, the play brought back memories of the 2014 World Series, when Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele refused to send Alex Gordon on a similar relay in Game 7. The Royals made the final out one batter later, and many wondered what might have happened had Gordon been given the green light.
This play was different -- and almost certainly not as close as that play would have been. Werth got the green light. And the Nationals paid the price for their over-aggression.
"Coming into third, I see Bobby waving his hand, going for it," Werth said. "You don't know what's going to happen in that situation. You've got to make them make two good throws. We've been aggressive ever since I've been here on that play. You live and die by those moments sometimes."
AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.