WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have had a green light all season long for their baserunners. They have encouraged their players to remain aggressive if they see an advantage they believe they can exploit.That aggressive baserunning cost them in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday evening when
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have had a green light all season long for their baserunners. They have encouraged their players to remain aggressive if they see an advantage they believe they can exploit.
That aggressive baserunning cost them in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday evening when Daniel Murphy was thrown out trying to steal second base in the seventh inning of a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.
Murphy believed he could take advantage of a slow move to the plate from right-hander Pedro Báez and attempted to steal second after a one-out walk. But second baseman Charlie Culberson made a short-hop catch and tag on catcher Yasmani Grandal's throw to nab Murphy and end the Nationals' rally before it got started.
"There's two choices on that, either be safe or don't run," Murphy said. "It was a bad play."
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Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the stolen-base attempt caught him by surprise but said he did not have any problems with it. However, Murphy's gamble was curious considering Friday was his first start since Sept. 17 after being sidelined with a strained buttocks that had been hampering his running. Although Murphy only recorded five stolen bases this year, he was once a good basestealer, including a streak of 26 consecutive stolen-base attempts from 2013-14.
Although runners succeeded on just four of seven steal attempts against Baez this year, the Nationals' scouting told them Baez is generally slow to the plate. However, his release time -- from his first move to the ball leaving his hand -- on Murphy's attempt was tracked by Statcast™ at 1.0 seconds, faster than the league average of 1.12 seconds by right-handers. Combine that with Grandal's pop time of 1.92 seconds, as measured by Statcast™ -- faster than the league average of 1.99 seconds (and faster than his average of 1.98) -- and the Dodgers were able to catch Murphy easily.
"I was a little bit surprised, knowing that he's got somewhat of a glute problem," Grandal said. "But the time and point of that situation, one out, they need someone on second to see if somebody else can get a base hit. You've got to think about how the game is played in that situation, and the scoreboard is always telling you what different things that can happen. It did catch me by surprise, but I wouldn't expect anything else."
Even though Murphy was unsuccessful trying to steal second, he did reach a top speed of 19.5 mph and collected a hit, quelling any worries the Nationals may have had about his health for the series.
"I guess the leg felt better than I imagined, because he's running pretty good on that ball," Baker said. "I was surprised, but like I said, we got the stopwatch on those guys, and he's being aggressive and he thought he had a chance to steal the base. You know, we stole second and third, everybody says great play; and then when you get thrown out, they say it's not."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.