The Giants and Dodgers delivered a classic in Game 5 of the NLDS.
But this classic didn’t quite get the ending it deserved. Instead of the game ending on a flyout, groundout or such, Giants first baseman Wilmer Flores was rung up on a check-swing Strike 3 against Max Scherzer. First base umpire Gabe Morales ruled on appeal that Flores went around.
Here’s the swing in question:
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Yeah, it doesn’t look like he went around.
It was a snap decision by Morales. According to the 2021 MLB rules, “field umpires must be alerted to the request from the plate umpire and quickly respond.”
And according to MLB’s list of reviewable plays, a checked swing is not on the list of calls that can be viewed on video.
“Check swings are one of the hardest calls we have. I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live. When it happened live I thought (Flores) went, so that’s why I called it a swing,” Morales told reporters in a postgame press conference (per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times).
Said Giants manager Gabe Kapler after the game: “I mean, obviously, you don’t want a game to end that way. I know these guys work really hard to make the right call. Obviously it’s going to be frustrating to have a game end like that. Pretty high-quality hitter at the plate that can climb back into that count (Flores fell behind 0-2). It’s no guarantee of success at the end of the at-bat.
“Especially right now, there’s no need to be angry about that. I just think it’s a disappointing way to end. There are other reasons we didn’t win today’s baseball game. That was just the last call of the game.”
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There were certainly other reasons the Giants lost. They were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and they left six runners on base. The offense was held to one run on six hits over nine innings at home in a winner-take-all game.
But Kapler is also right that it took the bat out of Flores’ hand in a critical situation. Flores is a notoriously difficult batter to strike out — he had a 12.8 percent strikeout rate during the regular season — and he has been productive with two strikes this year. According to Stathead, he ranked 20th in the majors with a .662 OPS in two-strike counts this season (minimum 200 at-bats) and seven of his 18 home runs came with two strikes.
On the flip side, Scherzer has been just about impossible to come back from with two strikes. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, Scherzer’s .397 OPS allowed to batters in two-strike counts was the fourth-lowest in the majors in 2021, according to Stathead.
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Of course, Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger wasn’t about to complain. “Umpire said it was a swing, so it was a swing,” Bellinger told reporter Lauren Shehadi on the TBS broadcast.
And there was some irony in the outcome for the Dodgers. On July 22, Giants outfielder Darin Ruf went around for what should have been a game-ending Strike 3, but on appeal it was ruled he held up in time. Ruf walked to force in a run and tie the game 3-3. A two-run single by the next hitter, LaMonte Wade, gave the Giants the lead and they ultimately won the game.
The Giants finished the season one game ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West standings.
Darin Ruf recognizes the irony: “ it didn’t look like he went but a checked swing early in the year helped us out too, It’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events.”
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 15, 2021