- The Washington Times - Friday, April 4, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Like many of those at Nationals Park on Friday, Ian Desmond isn’t totally sure what happened on a play that saw what appeared to be an inside-the-park home run by him turned into a ground rule double. 

He knows one thing for sure: That play didn’t cost the Nationals in the game they lost 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves.

“There were some other mistakes that were made, especially by me, that probably are more of a bigger story in the game than that,” Desmond said.

No question there.

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (9) walks back to the dugout after being informed by umpire Jim Joyce (66) that Ian Desmond's inside-the-park homer was overturned on replay review and changed to a ground-rule double during the fifth inning of a baseball home opener the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park Friday, April 4, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (9) walks back to the dugout after ... more >

The Nats had two runners thrown out trying to steal, one of them Desmond and the other Bryce Harper, when the Braves sniffed out what was coming and used a pitchout to trap both in rundowns.  The Nats had Adam LaRoche thrown out at the plate early in the game when he probably should have been held at third. The Nats saw LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Harper go down on strikes after putting two runners on with none out in the eighth.

They had their chances despite the overturned home run. Instead, the Braves got the first laugh in the initial battle between NL East contenders.

But the play was an interesting subplot in the game anyway if for no other reason than it showed the sellout crowd of 42,834 that baseball has joined some of its other major-sport brethren in using available technology to make sure as often as possible the proper call is made.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean the proper call was made here.  The whole scene, though, makes for some interesting discussion as managers, players and fans try to get their arms around the whole replay thing.

To reset the scene:  Desmond led off the fifth with a scorcher that headed toward the left field corner.  The BravesJustin Upton took off for it and then raised his hands, the signal that the ball is stuck under some padding or out of view.  No umpire immediately went out to check. Desmond kept running.  Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons told Upton to throw the ball in. Desmond scored.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez used his challenge on the play.  The umpires conferred with replay central in New YorkDesmond was sent back to second, which brought Nats manager Matt Williams out with some questions of his own.

Then Desmond was thrown out trying to steal, which really has nothing to do with the replay debate but serves to illustrate the way things went for the Nats. Instead of a 1-1 game, instead of a runner on second with nobody out, they’ve got no one on and one out and they’re still down 1-0.

The Braves, of course, thought the correct call was made.  Williams‘ point is also valid: If the ball was lodged to the point, it should have been a double, how was Upton able to pick it up and throw it in later?

For that, Upton apologized.

“I should have trusted my instincts,” he said. “I made the play a little more confusing than it should have been.  Next time it happens? I will stand there if I’m 100 percent sure like I was. I knew that I was right.  It was just a matter of whether they were going to kill the play of not.”

Story Continues →