SAN DIEGO — As the Washington Nationals celebrated their second straight victory, a 6-5 win in 10-innings over the Padres, several of them wondered about a scoring decision in the ninth.
Ryan Zimmerman committed his ninth error of the season Friday night, and while plenty of those nine have been deserved as Zimmerman’s throwing woes have become one of the Nationals’ central storylines on the young season, this one was a difficult call.
Before Zimmerman spoke with reporters multiple teammates wondered aloud how the throw their third baseman made — ranging well to his left to field a hard-hit ball and, faced with a speedy baserunner in Chris Denorfia racing down the line, pulling first baseman Adam LaRoche just off the bag with this throw — could constitute an error.
And Zimmerman, generally mild-mannered and metered in his comments, admitted he too was amazed to see the scorer’s decision on the play.
“I would never complain about a play, but that’s not an error,” Zimmerman said. “I mean, I don’t know if they have Brooks Robinson as a scorekeeper here or what.”
The error hurt the Nationals. Rafael Soriano got one more out, but then allowed three straight singles and the Padres tied the game with the baserunner put on during Zimmerman’s play. Whether it was a hit or an error, at that point, becomes somewhat irrelevant — and even more irrelevant when Chad Tracy’s pinch-hit homer eventually won it for the Nationals.
But for a guy who understands he’s making a lot of throwing errors, it seemed tough to swallow to get one on a difficult play.
Here’s the way Zimmerman described it:
“I have the hole (on that play),” said Zimmerman, who scooped the ball almost in front of shortstop Ian Desmond. “Me and Desi talk in-between pitches and before at-bats and obviously with (Soriano) throwing the cutter and a righty up, Desi is playing up the middle. He tells me I have anything in the six-hole. So I know anything to my left I have to go get. I’m almost near second base and throwing across my body against not a slow guy. If (the throw’s) on the base, it’s bang-bang.
“We’re not supposed to complain about that stuff but that one was a little ridiculous. I guess if anyone deserves to get errors put on ‘em right now it’s me, but that’s, that’s over the top. I’m sure Denorfia wants the hit. (Shoot.) I want the hit if I’m him.
“It is what it is. In the end I feel bad because it hurt Sori. If we get that guy right there, it’s a whole different inning, but I don’t know what else I can do on that play. I get to the ball and try and throw across my body and, it’s not a play you practice. But it is what it is.”
By definition, a player is only to be charged an error if the official scorer feels that the runner would’ve been safe with “ordinary effort by a good throw.” So the discrepancy here comes in whether or not the scorer felt it was an easily makable play. Zimmerman obviously felt it was an extremely difficult one.
Given how vehemently he spoke about it, it will be interesting to see if the scorer’s decision is reversed.
As an aside, obviously the play opened Zimmerman up to the seemingly constant criticism of his throws that has been prevalent this season. But Zimmerman’s issues, which the Nationals feel are partly due to the shoulder he is still regaining strength in, almost always appear on routine plays (which has raised the question of whether they are mental). The bad throws, however, can often also be traced back to his footwork. When his footwork is correct, his throws follow suit.
At any rate, the throw in the ninth inning was not a routine play.
Zimmerman had one more heart-stopping moment in the 10th, when Drew Storen induced a ground ball to third (with runners on the corners) for the potential final out and Zimmerman bobbled it slightly. He calmly picked it up, though, and made a good throw to first base. Inning over. Game over.
“I just caught a little in-between hop and it scooped out of my glove,” he said. “Just have to not panic. Panic will make it worse so just grab it and make a strong throw.”