Sports

Nats’ Aggression Got Their Best in 2-1 Home Opening Loss

by Chris Lingebach
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Catcher Evan Gattis #24 of the Atlanta Braves tags out Adam LaRoche #25 of the Washington Nationals trying to score during the fourth inning of the Nationals home opener at Nationals Park on April 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Catcher Evan Gattis #24 of the Atlanta Braves tags out Adam LaRoche #25 of the Washington Nationals trying to score during the fourth inning of the Nationals home opener at Nationals Park on April 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSCDC) - The Washington Nationals fully expect to be involved in tight games with the Braves, like the one they lost 2-1 in their home opener on Friday, all season long.

Multiple players said as much, after the game.

Those same players – Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman – were left wondering exactly what had happened in the bottom of a wild 5th inning, to have an inside-the-park home run by Desmond overturned in a pivotal replay ruling by the umpires.

Desmond, leading off the inning, rocketed a liner into the left field corner that would end up getting lodged between the bottom of the padded wall and the warning track, just beyond the foul pole.

At first, it appeared as though Desmond had received a lucky break, allowing him to advance all the way to home plate; reflected by the initial inside-the-park ruling.

“I saw the ball in the corner. I just kept on running,” Desmond said. “I didn’t see the officials or the umpire say anything so I just kept on going.”

Although Justin Upton never made an attempt on the ball in left field, he did throw both hands straight up in the air to alert the umpires he couldn’t retrieve it, which would typically prompt a decision to be made as to whether the ball is dead or alive.

Alive was the initial ruling, which tied the game at 1, but instant replay would cause officials to rule in Upton’s favor, sending Desmond back to second base and taking the run away from the Nationals.

“It seemed like it was under the wall, and you can’t tell if it’s lodged or not,” Zimmerman said of his perspective form the dugout. “I mean I don’t know the exact rule or anything like that. I don’t know that stuff.”

LaRoche was also flummoxed.

“You don’t see that every day, so you hear about ten different theories of what it could have been,” he said of the dugout chatter. “I still don’t know what was right.”

“I was under the assumption that the umpire had to go out there and see the ball before [Upton] touched it. That’s a guess.”

Rule 7.05 in Major League Baseball’s official rulebook states:

“Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines”

Baserunning, with which the Nats shot themselves in the foot repeatedly throughout the game, would also spoil Desmond’s second opportunity to score that inning.

He was caught stealing third base, and after a quick rundown, tagged out halfway between third and second.

Desmond clarified he was given the green light by third base coach Bob Henley on the play, and decided on his own volition to make a break for it.

“I thought I had something, and about halfway I didn’t have what I thought I had,” he said. “And panic mode at that point.”

That Nationals did score in the 6th inning, but after giving up a run in the 8th, went on to lose the game 2-1 to Atlanta.

Aggressive base running — something Matt Wiliams preached since day one of spring training — may have been the cause of numerous needless outs for the Nats: including Desmond’s cardinal first out of the inning at third base sin, and earlier, LaRoche getting nailed dead to rights at home in the 4th, but more often than not, it may be the decisive trait to lead Washington to victory in tight ball games later in the season.

“As players, we like getting a third base coach who’s aggressive,” LaRoche said. “If you do that enough times, it’s going to pay off quite a bit.”

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