Backing up Bases
Last night after our Easter festivities I settled in to watch the last half of the Red Sox vs. Orioles. Last year (2013) the Orioles set a number of different fielding records and were rated the best defensive team in Major League Baseball. They have been on the same path this year with only 4 fielding errors through April 20th, all made by Manny Machado's replacement third basemen Jonathon Schoop. Insert Manny Machado, and they may be errorless through Easter Sunday. Tonight that same great defensive team blew a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with an error to make a total of 3 on the night. This article will discuss how the pitcher, who did not commit an error, could have saved the game.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded, Bostons' Mike Carp hit a line drive to the left fielder David Lough. Dustin Pedroia, the runner on third, did not immediately tag up. So when Lough caught the ball for the second out of the inning, Pedroia was scrambling back to the bag. Lough caught the ball and threw the it in at full speed to the third baseman Schoop even though Pedroia did not tag, who was out of position as the cutoff man to home. Schoop was only a couple steps off the bag at third when he decided to dodge the ball coming at him from left field.
The ill-advised throw to the out of position cut off man sailed 15 up the foul line, past the catcher standing at home plate and the pitcher who only gave a half hearted effort to back up the play. Since the pitcher did not hustle from the crack of the bat to get in position to back up the throw he wasn't able to field the ball, it got past both of them, and Pedroia came into score the winning run. The pitcher was not charged with the error but in my opinion he was just as much at fault as anyone involved in the play.
It is the pitcher's job to hustle behind any base there may be a play and get as far back toward the fence as possible. The further back the pitcher is from the play, the more time he has to react to a bad throw. In this situation the Orioles pitcher only got to the edge of the home plate dirt before the errand throw came in and had no time to react. The left fielder and third baseman also had chances to keep Pedroia at third base, but with a little hustle the pitcher could have made up for their mistakes and saved himself a loss!