Ketel Marte had a web gem. The dynamic center fielder had chased down Mark Canha’s shot to left-center field in the second inning, stuck out his glove, made the catch and then banged into the wall. For a brief moment, the inning was over, Marte had saved two runs and the game was still tied.
That is, until the ball ended up on the ground.
Marte’s violent crash into the wall caused the ball to pop out of his glove. Umpires quickly made the realization, and Canha hustled to third for a triple. As two runners scored, Matt Peacock’s jubilation quickly turned to despondency.
The entire sequence served to summarize the D-backs’ 4-0 loss to the A’s on Wednesday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum, as well as their performance on the road in recent weeks. They’ve now lost 19 straight games away from Chase Field, and this was the latest way things haven’t gone their way.
“The ball that was in and out of Ketel’s glove in center field was something that I think created a little bit of that deficit early on, and we could never really come back from that,” said manager Torey Lovullo.
As the ball rolled on the warning-track dirt, there was a brief moment of general confusion. Why was this ruled a hit and not a catch? Let’s go to the rulebook. Rule 5.09(a)(1) states:
"In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.”
Those last three words are the most important. Marte did not intend to drop the ball, nor was the act voluntary. Based on the letter of the law, Lovullo, as well as A’s manager Bob Melvin, thought the umpires got the call right.
“I actually saw it go into his glove and I saw him carry the ball into the wall,” Lovullo said. “I put my head down, and I was starting to fill in some of my little notes and information on my scorecard. And then [I] glanced up and saw that the ball was rolling down on the ground. At that point, I figured out what happened, that the ball was jarred loose by the wall, which can’t happen. But [Marte] never really secured the ball.
“When I was out there with the umpire talking about the play, I could see that the ball was never secured in his glove, and it was kind of sliding out in a very early point in that contact with the wall. So the umpires got it right.”
Marte and Peacock, however, disagreed with the assessment.
“I had the ball for about three or four seconds, also three or four steps, that’s why I think it should’ve been called an out,” Marte said.
Canha was just happy it all worked out -- for him, at least.
“I was getting ready to spike my helmet on the ground,” Canha said. “I felt like that should have gone out. I just saw the ball on the ground and just ran. Tried to act like I saw him drop it and make it seem like the ball was not caught. It was a crazy play. I had no idea when it went to replay what they were going to do. Just glad it worked out.”
Regardless of split opinions, the call was the call. Canha had a triple and two runs had scored. And the aftershock of that play was quickly felt.
One batter later, Jed Lowrie slapped a 97.8-mph ground ball that Peacock tried to snag with his right hand. The ball deflected off Peacock’s hand, not only allowing Canha to score but resulting in an early exit for Peacock, who could no longer throw.
In the span of two plays, the A’s had scored three runs, Peacock was gone and the D-backs’ vitality had evaporated.
Arizona was by no means out of the game. When the dust settled, only two innings had elapsed. But for a second consecutive day, the bats were silenced.
The D-backs certainly had their chances. They forced A's starter Manaea to throw 50 pitches in the first two innings. In the sixth, they put runners on first and second with no outs and the heart of the order due up, but they couldn’t score. Christian Walker encapsulated the frustration after popping out in foul territory, grabbing his bat by the barrel and slamming its handle into the ground.
The D-backs are quickly approaching the wrong side of history. The record for consecutive road losses is 22, held by the 1963 Mets and the 1943 Athletics. To avoid that mark, Arizona will need everything to go right for just one game when it travels to San Francisco for a four-game series starting Monday.
The D-backs will need the bats to wake up. They will need the pitching to be sharp. And yes, they will need to catch breaks wherever they can get them..
Tough catches included.