Now, that was a tough way for a six-game winning streak to end.
A two-out triple and error allowed Starling Marte to race around the bases and score the winning run in a 2-1 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
To make matters worse, Marte was called out at the plate, but the call was reversed on replay — the first time that a game has been decided by a review reversal.
You had to figure it would happen to Giants.
There was a lot of conjecture and debate about the final play on talk radio and Twitter, as Giants fans were looking for someone to pin the blame on.
So let’s look at the suspects:
HUNTER PENCE: Some fans said that Pence could have played the ball better off the wall in right. The ball bounced away from Pence after hitting the wall, allowing Marte to take third.
I believe Pence misjudged the carry on this ball. When it came off Marte’s bat, I thought that Pence would catch the ball on the warning track. I think Pence thought the same thing, which put him in a bad spot to play the ball off the wall.
So could he have played the ball better? Yes. But really it would have meant the difference between Marte at second or Marte at third. And with two out, a base hit is the most likely way Marte would have scored with two out. And a hit to the outfield scores Marte from second or third.
TIM HUDSON: Other fans said that Hudson should have been in a better position to back up the throw to third.
Again, OK, fine. But as a veteran pitcher, I don’t really think that Hudson thought there would be or should have been a throw into third. Is that an excuse? Not really. On a play like that, there’s no other place a pitcher should be than backing up a throw into third on a ball hit to right. But I’m not about to pin this one on Hudson, given the way he pitched when the Giants needed him to give the bullpen some much needed rest.
PABLO SANDOVAL: Given his struggles at the plate, fans are just looking for a reason to make The Panda into The Goat. But not on this play. Fans said Sandoval should have done all he could to block the ball. But the throw was a bad one, forcing Sandoval to lunge for the ball. He actually did a great job to get up quickly, get to the ball and make a spot-on throw home. Sandoval was not at fault.
BUSTER POSEY: This one drove me the most nuts. Fans were howling that Posey should have blocked Marte’s path to the plate. Some were blaming the new rule on blocking the plate, in which case they were wrong TWICE. For one, the new rule does not prevent a catcher from blocking the plate once he has the ball, and on this play, Posey had the ball early enough to block the plate within the rules. Secondly, regardless of the rule and what it allows, the Giants have instructed Posey for more than two years to avoid contact at the plate. Even if it means allowing a run — even the winning run — to score, they would much rather have a healthy Posey. And that’s the right call. Other fans thought Posey should have made a better tag, placing the tag on the hand or arm and not on the body. Well, looking at the replay, Posey did attempt to tag Marte on his left hand or arm, but Marte alerted pulled that hand back to his body to avoid the tag, leaving Posey to tag his chest. That allowed Marte to slip his right hand onto the plate.
If there was a way to fault Posey, it was his positioning at the plate. When Posey took the throw, he was standing right over home plate. When Marte came in with his slide, Posey backed away from him to avoid contact, applying the tag in a matador-like style. Again, this is likely a by-product of the Giants telling him to avoid contact. But a better way of that to happen is for Posey to position himself in fair territory and up the line to third to shorten the length of the thrown from Sandoval. This would have given Marte a lane to the plate, as the rule stipulates, but would have allowed Posey to make the tag earlier. The only question here is whether Posey could have done that and still retained a line of sight from Sandoval.
THE UMPIRES: Other fans were screaming that they hate replay. But I can assure you, that if the replay had allowed the Giants to win, they would love it. Replay is here to make sure calls are correct. As Jon Miller said in the post-game, in the entire history of the game, that play would have been called out because the throw beat Marte to the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered where the tag was, unless Marte made a more obvious attempt to avoid the tag. But now, with replay, it matters where the tag is. And that’s the way it should be.
The Giants were saying afterward they thought the replay was inconclusive and should not have been overturned. That’s more their hearts talking. The Giants had a play reviewed earlier this season ruled inconclusive that the Giants felt clearly showed that the call on the field should have been overturned. But that was in the first couple of weeks of the season, when the replay ump was far more reluctant to overturn calls on the field. But now they are willing to make the closer calls on replay. And in this case, the replay showed he was safe.
EHIRE ADRIANZA: If you were looking for the real culprit, you should look no further than Adrianza. This was another case of situational baseball, much like the plays earlier this season by Sandoval when he charged a slow roller and made an ill-advised and errant throw to first, allowing a run to score. The best play here would have been to eat the ball. The situation would have been different had their been one out or no outs. A runner at third with less than two outs is a much different situation. It’s a risk vs. reward situation, and the reward goes up with less than two outs. But with two outs, you don’t need to be a hero. You need to trust your pitcher to get that third out. There really wasn’t a play on Marte at third, and the risk of something bad happening outweighed the reward.