Hug(e) out? Play at 2nd base invites 'what if?'

October 25th, 2020

Let’s call this one “hugging an out.”

There was a hug, and then there was an out. But should there have been?

Keep in mind that this particular moment happened in the fifth inning -- way too early to determine if it would end up a meaningless happenstance, or something that might gnaw at the Dodgers, should they lose by a run.

Well -- the Dodgers lost Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, 8-7. So let’s dive in.

With two outs in the inning, singled to right and drove in Corey Seager, putting the Dodgers ahead, 3-2. Muncy attempted to advance to second on the throw home, and he appeared to beat catcher Mike Zunino’s laser-quick throw by a half-step.

If the play had ended there, Muncy probably would be ruled safe. But then Muncy and became entangled and tumbled down. From there, the picture was less clear.

The momentum of Muncy’s slide caused him to glide right into Adames, who applied the tag but then ended up with his arms wrapped around Muncy as the two fell to the ground. The force of the unintentional bro hug caused Muncy’s foot to come off the bag, and because Adames had maintained control of the ball, second-base umpire Mark Carlson, after taking a couple of seconds to assess where the ball was, made the out call.

Muncy patted Adames on his stomach, to check that the shortstop wasn’t hurt on the play. He then calmly engaged Carlson in a very brief chat, presumably to make a case that Adames had actually pulled him off the bag.

Manager Dave Roberts inquired as well, though he knew the umpires wouldn’t be able go back and look at this play.

“That's just a judgment call,” Roberts said. “They just felt that Adames didn't pull him off the bag. And so as they kind of fell together, [Carlson] called them out, and that's not reviewable.”

This play, obviously, was not anywhere close to being the defining moment of the game. The drama of the ninth inning swallowed up most of the need to dissect the little things that happened earlier.

Still, the Dodgers, according to Elias, are blistering hot when batting with two outs -- in fact, they’re tied with the 1992 Braves for the highest percentage of runs scored with two outs in a postseason at 60.6 percent. So it’s fair to wonder what may have transpired had Muncy been safe and the inning continued.

The play was slightly reminiscent of a moment in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series, when Braves baserunner Ron Gant, who, after watching a wild fielding sequence on the left side of the infield, had taken a wide turn around first base and had to scamper back to the bag. Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek then blatantly lifted Gant’s right leg off the base and pushed him away. The umpire inexplicably ruled Gant out.

Saturday’s incident wasn’t anywhere near as controversial. But with the World Series now knotted up, 2-2, it may wind up as one of those “what-if” moments that could have, or should have, turned out differently.