'Three!' not magic number for Giants as Nats get break
Posey advises Bumgarner to throw to third on Ramos' bunt; error changes complexion of game
SAN FRANCISCO -- From his vantage point, Wilson Ramos could see his bunt dribble toward the first-base side of the pitcher's mound at AT&T Park, forcing Madison Bumgarner to pounce to his left and field it. Ramos was running to first, but also watching the play. He saw Ian Desmond slingshot off second base and head toward third, carrying the potential go-ahead run on his back. Then Ramos heard his counterpart, Giants catcher Buster Posey, screaming "Three!" from behind him.
"Oh, Lord," Ramos thought to himself.
In that instant, everything changed in the seventh inning of Monday's Game 3 of the National League Division Series, tipping all that has happened since Friday on its side. Bumgarner's throw sailed well wide of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, scuttling around near the home bullpen. Desmond scored, Bryce Harper scored, and it proved to be not a rally but an exorcism for the Nationals, who had not plated a run in 21 consecutive innings.
"We were all just waiting for a break," Nats closer Drew Storen said. "I've been saying all along, we just need one little break."
The Nationals instead received a massive one, parlaying Bumgarner's throwing error into a three-run inning and a 4-1 victory. They rocketed out of what manager Matt Williams called "a dire situation," and they're now holding a pitching advantage on paper in Game 4, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
"It changed the whole game," Ramos said. "Bumgarner was throwing a really good game, but those little things happen in games. If we do the little things, we have an opportunity to win this series."
Monday's little things took the form of a minor miracle, considering the 235-pound Ramos -- "Buffalo," to his teammates -- had not laid down a successful sacrifice bunt in over three years.
When Desmond singled and Harper walked to open the seventh, third-base coach Bob Henley walked down the third-base line to ask him that favor. Ramos admitted to being "nervous" in the moment, even more so when he took three straight pitches to fall into a 1-2 count. But with two strikes, Henley did not remove the bunt sign. Bumgarner unleashed a 1-2 slider. Ramos stuck his bat out and deadened it.
As the ball rolled fair and the runners broke from their respective bases, Posey bellowed for Bumgarner to throw to third.
"I just thought the way it jumped off his bat that we might have a shot," Posey said. "But Desmond had a good jump on it. Probably should have just taken the out at first."
"I shouldn't have done it," Bumgarner said. "But regardless of whether I should have thrown it over there or not, you can't throw the ball away."
Desmond's jump was so quick that he was already sliding into third base when the throw arrived, allowing him to jolt Sandoval off his feet. Asked if he could have moved off the bag in an attempt to corral Bumgarner's throw, Sandoval responded: "You didn't see the play? He took me out. How am I going to get out of the base?"
Instead, Sandoval appeared to injure himself on the play, stretching for several moments later in the inning after he splayed out to catch Doug Fister's bunt. But the man known as "Panda" stayed in at third base, calling it "part of the game."
So too are errors, and so too is momentum. The Nats have it now, thanks to Posey and Bumgarner. Washington appears in every respect to be alive, awake and well.
"I don't know if 'shock' is the word," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's such an intense game and I know they want to get that out at third base, but they probably tried to do a little too much there. They've played so well, these types of games. We made a mistake. We've got to learn from it."