A Game of Flinches

The Washington Nationals game today exemplifies the way sport results can hinge on the most minor, random actions, things that go unnoticed to the unobservant or casual fan.

First, the Nationals’ closer, Rafael Soriano, blows a save by allowing the Brewers to score the tying run in the top of the ninth inning. He throws a ball up and in that is hit for a single with a runner on second. But in the last of the ninth, with Anthony Rendon on first, Jayson Werth hits a screaming liner into the left field corner. Rendon just takes off and keeps on running. The third base coach backs up halfway to home plate to get a good look at the play, and waves Rendon in. Usually that would be risky. The ball got out to left field in a hurry, and Rendon has to run 270 feet from first base to home.

Meanwhile the left fielder, Chris Davis, runs to cut the ball off by circling a little bit behind it, so he can glove it on the bounce while running forward, giving his throw to the infield more momentum. But in doing so, he has to run onto the warning track, made of a gravelly substance. As he gloves the ball he loses traction and skids for a fraction of a second just before he throws to the plate. The skid causes him to (a) double-pump before he throws, losing a little time, and (b) throw off-balance and miss the cutoff man. The skid is what the coach has seen when he waves Rendon home. He scores standing up, without even a throw.

Game over.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2014.

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