Matt Kemp was called safe at home in the fourth inning Wednesday night, safe on a play where the final out was made by Ryan Zimmerman knocking down Hanley Ramirez’s hard ground ball and crawling in time to tag Adrian Gonzalez running from third.
But here’s the thing about that play: it was pretty clear. From the Nationals’ dugout, from the field, from the pressbox, and certainly from the replay,it was easy to see that Kemp did not touch home plate before Zimmerman tagged Gonzalez. And it wasn’t until the teams had left the field, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had come out to argue, and manager Davey Johnson had been called out to be informed, that home plate umpire Alan Porter even signaled that Kemp was safe and the run was good.
At the time, it seemed like a minor issue. The Nationals were already in a large hole. This made it larger.
But when a six-run rally stalled at six in the eighth, bringing the Nationals all the way back and tying the game, they could only fume about the fact that six runs should’ve been enough to win it. That Kemp’s ninth-inning home run should’ve tied the game, not won it for the Dodgers.
“They’re all huge runs,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I’m not out there for my health. I don’t come out unless I feel like I’ve got a legitimate beef.”
Crew chief Mike Winters declined comment when approached by a reporter so there was no statement from the umpires on the decision. But here’s what the people most involved saw:
Manager Davey Johnson: “In my mind, he was already out. They obviously blew the call. It wasn’t reviewable. They all discussed it, and evidently nobody was paying attention. But Kemp wasn’t running. He just wasn’t running. The tag play was before. Obviously they missed it, but you’d think when the three of them got together somebody would’ve been paying attention that Kemp was not at home. But they’re not changing it. They had their meeting. And they wouldn’t look at it on video. It’s not a video thing.
“There’s nothing I can do. I raised a fuss. I said: ‘He wasn’t at the plate. You obviously didn’t see it.’ And the umpire chief came over. I said: ‘It’s terrible. You guys missed that. You better look at the replay and see how the three of you missed it. I can understand how the third base umpire is looking at the tag, but…’
“Normally, there’s a play like that, the home plate umpire is looking to see if the out is made before the play. And he immediately does that [points to ground]. He obviously didn’t see it.
“He said he saw it. There’s nothing you can really do. I mean, I can get thrown out.”
Nationals catcher Jesus Flores: “It was really was (not a close play). I didn’t know they were arguing about the play, because when I saw Zimmerman tagging Gonzalez, I knew that the guy (Kemp) wasn’t even really close to the plate. I was totally in shock because I didn’t know what was going on. And then I realized that was the argument at the plate. But for me, it was really a bad call.”
“(Home plate umpire Alan Porter) thought it was the bases loaded, so he kind of didn’t pay attention. That’s why I guess he went to the other umpires and talk about it… Terrible call.”
Ryan Zimmerman: “I didn’t (know where Kemp was) but I guess somehow everyone else on the field did, besides the person who had to make the (call). But, you know, at the time I guess you don’t think that’s a big play but you can’t just give away runs in the big leagues.
“Everyone else is looking at the plate. He was standing right behind home plate. He was in perfect position. Can’t fault him for that. I just, I don’t know if he was surprised that that play happened and he didn’t know he was going to have to make a decision or what happened, but he’s standing right there behind home plate with everything in front of him. I think at the time I don’t think anyone thought it was a really big deal but it turned out to be a big deal.
“It was 5-0 and then they just make it 6-0. You know, like I said, you can’t just give out free runs in the big leagues. It is what it is. It’s over.”
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp: “That was close, I don’t know if I made it or not.” Kemp was then informed by reporters that he did not. “Yeah, I don’t think I did. We got lucky right there.”
Outfielder Michael Morse: “That was a tough one. Calls like that, you never know when they’re going to come back and kick you in the butt. That was tough. The umpire thinks that it was a run, you got to go with it. It was a great play by Zim. You can look back and watch it 100 times. But it still was going to be what it was.”
Chien-Ming Wang: (through translator John Hsu) “I was just focused on the third-base play. I didn’t see the run at home so I got nothing over there.”
Danny Espinosa, who was on the bench when the call was made: “We thought that it was (a bad call). We couldn’t really tell being in the dugout. I guess it was kind of quick so you’re not really truly paying attention so youre just looking at the play being made. But I don’t know.
“Probably at the end of the game you look back at it and say probably if that’s made right that’s a big difference in the game. But we gave ourselves a chance to win so I don’t know how much we really look back on it.”