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Missed it by that much

Aug 26, 2014, 11:52 PM EST


PHILADELPHIA — Off the bat, it looked like a groundout to the shortstop. Not the most routine of groundouts, but a play Ian Desmond figured to make.

Leading off the bottom of the eighth of a tie game, Ben Revere rapped a sharp grounder slightly to Desmond’s right. The Nationals shortstop scooped it up and fired his throw to first base. It was a bit high, perhaps not too high for the 6-foot-3 Adam LaRoche, but just a smidge too high for his replacement on this night, Kevin Frandsen (listed at an even 6 feet).

Frandsen stretched as high as his body would allow, catching the ball with his left hand as he tried desperately to keep his right foot on the bag.

Did he manage to do it? Well, first base umpire Gary Cederstrom initially ruled yes, calling Revere out on the bang-bang play. Ryne Sandberg, though, wanted them to take a closer look at it, so the Phillies manager challenged the call.

As another umpiring crew at MLB’s New York command center watched the replays, Desmond replayed the whole thing in his mind.

“I was just sitting there trying to digest it, and I don’t think there was a whole lot else I could do,” Desmond said. “He hit the ball sharp to my backhand side. I was a little too close to backhand it. I don’t really have time to aim, I just have to get rid of it as quick as I could and make a good throw. But he’s safe — if he’s safe — by an inch at most.”

Revere was safe, at least according to the New York crew, which determined there was sufficient video evidence to overturn Cederstrom’s call. A call that set in motion the chain of events that dealt the Nationals a wrenching, 4-3 loss, their second straight by 1 run to the last-place Phillies.

Revere stole second off Tyler Clippard. Then he took third on Jimmy Rollins’ flyball to right. Then he scored on Carlos Ruiz’s sac fly to center. After clawing their way back against Cole Hamels to tie this game, the Nationals now trailed, thanks in large part to a crucial call for which there didn’t seem to be any consensus.

“I’ll take a look at it and see if there’s anything that I would see differently,” manager Matt Williams said minutes after the game ended, before he had a chance to watch replays in the clubhouse. “But on the [scoreboard], I didn’t know whether he was or wasn’t. Pretty close both ways. They deemed he was off, then they stole second, got him over and got him in. They executed.”

Indeed, the Phillies won not only because they successfully got the close call overturned, but because they were able to make the most of the situation and manufacture the go-ahead run. The Nationals, meanwhile, missed some opportunities of their own earlier in the game, whether in the form of Gio Gonzalez missing a bunt sign with a man on second and nobody out, Desmond getting picked off first base on what the Nationals felt was a balk by Hamels or Danny Espinosa scorching a ball with two outs and the bases loaded right at Rollins at shortstop.

“We’ve got a guy at second base and nobody out, we give him the bunt sign and he swung away,” Williams said, referring to Gonzalez’s plate appearance in the top of the third. “We need to make sure that we do that. … They did a good job tonight in the last inning of getting him to third. That wins you games. Got to make sure we’re doing a good job of that, as well.”

Despite their earlier miscues, the Nationals ultimately couldn’t help but point to the critical call in the bottom of the eighth that turned the fortunes of this game. Not to mention the circumstances that led to it.

With LaRoche needing his first night off in nearly four weeks to rest a tight lower back, Frandsen found himself playing first base for only the fourth time all season. He did his best to try to make the play but admittedly was restricted to his own physical constraints.

“I don’t think it matters what I think (about the overturned call),” he said. “Replays showed what they thought, so we gotta live with, and I gotta live with not being tall enough.”

LaRoche did actually pinch-hit for Frandsen with two outs in the ninth — he lofted a flyball to left to end the game — raising the question of whether he could have replaced Frandsen in the field the previous half-inning. Williams, though, made it clear he was trying to avoid using his veteran slugger at all, until a point arrived in which he felt he had no choice but to send him up to the plate.

“He could’ve (played the field),” the manager said. “But we’re trying to stay away from that, too. But in that situation (ninth inning), we don’t have a choice. We’re down by a run, we need an extra-base hit. So we’re trying to stay away from him for the night if we can. Turned out we couldn’t.”

All of it could’ve been moot had Clippard not let the speedy Revere swipe second, putting him in position to score on the back-to-back flyballs. But there were plenty of “could’ve beens” at the end of a frustrating night at the ballpark, one that left the Nationals’ diminutive backup first baseman shaking his head over something he couldn’t control: genetics.

“It’s a tough play, but it’s basically your human nature,” Frandsen said. “How tall are you? How much of an arm length do you have on that? So that one is hard to answer, because it’s a play that’s tough to make and a lot of things have got to go the right way. And obviously it didn’t.”

  1. pchuck69 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    Does “irrefutable evidence” no longer apply for overturning calls? I watched both the MASN and the Phillies feeds and there was no conclusive evidence to overturn this call.

    Also, can we get a clarification on what a balk is?

    • Danny - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      My gripe exactly

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:15 AM

        It was called an out on the field. No way anyone could reverse that with irrefutable evidence.

        THEY BLEW IT! If he was called safe on the field than that called should have stood. Irrefutable visual evidence to overturn didn’t exist.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:07 AM

      Interesting comment by FP after the second challenge. How sometimes you can tell which crew is on duty in New York, or something to that effect. hmmm…

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        heard that too. if he’s not going to explain himself, he shouldn’t make that kind of comment. unprofessional.

  2. npb99 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    Tough breaks the last couple of games. But we got good breaks during that 10-game winning streak. You don’t get five walkoffs in six games without a little luck.

    • conatsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      +1. That’s baseball dude.
      Let’s crush them tomorrow :-)

    • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      Yup, you got it. Can’t really be upset about this one. On the road, facing an ace, a lot of calls went against us- not just the replay reviews but also the strike zone on some crucial ABs, Espinosa’s missile with the bases loaded that went right to Rollins, etc. We’ll get ’em tonight.

      • Doc - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Phillies’ announcers called Espi’s rocket to Rollins the Nats’ best hit ball of the inning.

        Maybe just my imagination, or Espi’s getting to few AB’s to really be significant, but he appears to be striking out less.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        It’s your imagination. In the month of August, he’s had 26 PAs and struck out 10 times (38%).

  3. stoatva - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:41 AM

    Another game winning homer for Zach. Good for him, and good for us.

  4. therealjohnc - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:09 AM

    Tough breaks last night and tonight, it happens. I didn’t think they weren’t going to lose a series the rest of the season.

    The important thing is that the magic number came down again today. With the Braves’ loss, the Nats’ magic number is now 24.

    Go Nats!

  5. ArVAFan - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    Back in Spring Training, Gio was clearly the worst of the pitchers at the bunting drills. Fister could get, oh, 12 of 15 in the bucket, but Gio got exactly one of his 15 in the bucket. (To be fair, a few others were close). Maybe that needs to be his off-season assignment.

    But missing the sign entirely (or worse yet, ignoring it)–that’s inexcusable.

    OTOH, maybe he’s just frustrated with the lack of run support and decided that since everyone else was flailing, he might as well swing.

  6. NatsLady - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    It seems to me that New York has gone beyond the spirit of replay review: which I thought was to overturn egregiously wrong calls, not every whisper of a slow-mo stop frame. Anyway, for 222 and anyone else, as usual

    • numbskull111 - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      I agree. It seems to me that if a call is egregiously wrong, it should take them less than 60 seconds to watch and make that call. This sitting there for two and three minutes looking at frame by frame video is ridiculous.

      I think they should modify that rule and give them 45 – 60 seconds once the headsets are on to make the call. If they still can’t decide after that amount of time…the call is not egregiously wrong…and therefore upheld.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        People have been suggesting a time limit all year long, usually after a call goes against us. It makes no sense. We have no idea why a call takes a long time. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no conclusive evidence. Maybe they had several calls to review at once. It’s not like there’s a reviewer assigned to each game. Maybe they had technical difficulties. Maybe they needed to review several different angles. If you’re going to have replay, the goal is to get it right.

        Both of last night’s calls were questionable. That’s the beef we have today, not how long it took.

  7. NatsLady - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    If you missed it, they announce the Arizona Fall League rosters. Obviously, they can change, and many times a player has not gone to Arizona because he’s been on a postseason roster. Here is the story from WaPo

    right-handed pitchers Neil Holland and Derek Self
    left-handed pitchers Felipe Rivero and Matt Grace
    catchers Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino
    infielder Tony Renda

    • DaveB - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:03 AM

      Looks like Matt Grace is off the list of potential call-ups to the Nats (I assumed it was a longshot, but he’s had a good year)

    • sjm308 - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:25 AM

      People are always talking about Rizzo’s deals for Fister, Thorton, Cabrera. Do you guys know who we gave up for Lobaton & Rivero? Nate Karns who I know everyone liked but seriously, another steal.

      Go Nats!

  8. laddieblahblah - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    Play it like a mulligan. The Braves and the Marlins both lost and neither gained any ground on the Nats while each edged closer to elimination by losing another game.

    Even when the Nats lose these days, they seem to win.

    Gio pitched well for the 2nd straight game, and you can add Kevin Frandsen’s name to the list of Rizzo bargain basement pickups over the past 10 months: Fister, Cabrera, Thornton and, now, Frandsen. His hit with the bags loaded is exactly the kind of AB the Nats need in those key game situations.

    OK. Tee it up and take another whack at it, tonight.

    The main bad news is that Souza is still having trouble regaining his hitting stroke at Potomac. Perhaps it is just rust from 2 weeks of inactivity. I hope so. If healthy and swinging freely, he could be a key reserve for the stretch run and, perhaps, for the post-season. And the MiL teams are running out of games for him to regain his form.

    • adcwonk - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:43 AM


    • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Even better than a mulligan- we knocked a game off the magic number last night. The beauty of having a comfortable lead with five weeks left is that on most nights there’s four things that can happen and three of them are good.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        Exactly. The calendar is our friend, for once.

  9. natsfan1a - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    Sorry about that, Chief.

    “Missed it by that much.”

    I sure don’t like losing to those Phoolies. However, the Barves were kind enough to lose and lower the magic number, so there’s that. Hoping that Fister can help get the team off on a happy flight tonight.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    What a quote from Giancarlo Stanton “5 months doesn’t replace 5 years”. Nothing politcially correct there.

    If the Marlins can’t extend him which doesn’t sound encouraging to me, the Marlins may have to trade him this off-season prior to his last year. If they don’t and he walks, they will only get 1 comp pick.

    • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:20 AM

      Here’s hoping he goes to the American League!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        Right, not the Dodgers who are the only NL team who could make that work.

        I could see a trade/extension deal this winter. Sucks for the Marlins as they look amazing on paper with José Fernández coming back.

        On top of that Ozuna just switched agents and now is a Boras guy.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        Could be an amazing hot stove this winter. O’Brien was talking yesterday that Braves may be moving J Upton and Heyward this winter in addition to BJ. And Gattis. Wild stuff. As long as Stanton doesn’t end up in a Braves uni.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        I think that with BJ’s salary, and how poorly that he has played,both in the field and at the plate, Atlanta will be very hard pressed to find any takers.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        Supposedly they are talking with the Cubs about Ejax. Bad contracts on both ends. Cubs want Minor as part of the deal. We will see

      • jd - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:55 AM

        If the Marlins can’t find a way to keep Stanton who is a top 5 player in all of baseball (maybe top 3) then you have to wonder if they are a viable major league franchise or just a vehicle for Loria to line his pockets.

      • nats128 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM

        “rayvil01 – Aug 27, 2014 at 8:36 AM
        Could be an amazing hot stove this winter. O’Brien was talking yesterday that Braves may be moving J Upton and Heyward this winter in addition to BJ. And Gattis. Wild stuff. As long as Stanton doesn’t end up in a Braves uni.”

        I would enjoy any links you have to this. Heyward is a Free Agent after next year. Makes no sense to trade Gattis.

        J Upton on the other hand they got with C Johnson and was a steal trade. Arizona got Delgado who was a top pitching prospect whose done nothing and Prado got traded to the Yankees for little. J Upton is having a very good year at the plate even though he doesnt look happy and his defense is nothing great.

        BJ Upton is just a waste and worse than Uggla.

        I could see the Braves trading for pitching and rebuilding. Its clear the Marlins and Mets are on the rise and Stanton has to be traded.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        jd, is there really any question about that? As Stanton said, 5 months doesn’t make up for 5 years.

        The good thing is that even the Marlins probably don’t want to trade to someone in the division, so we’re not likely to see him in a Braves cap. The Dodgers have too many outfielders as it is. I think the AL would be a great destination for him. ASAP.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        The Hot Stove is heating up and it’s August!

        The Red Sox or Rangers would be my guess where Stanton goes in a trade/extension deal. Yankees lack the trade pieces.

        Ken Rosenthal reports the Reds will be shopping some pitchers this Winter.

        Yes, Heyward is a trade candidate and wouldn’t be surprised to see a house cleaning of all their outfielders.

        The Phoolies again you’d have to think would be sellers.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        222, here you go.

        I may have gotten confused…could have sworn Justin Upton land Heyward were mentioned. That may have been on twitter back and forth items O’Brien was having after this blog.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Ghost, what do you think Philly turned down for Hamels? If I’m Baltimore without a #1 watching him pitch right now would make me sick.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        rayvil, I think it was nats128 who asked for the links, but thanks. Kind of hilarious, when you think about it: “Yes, we’ll give you Mike Minor, but you have to take BJ Upton off of our hands too. Otherwise, no deal.”

        We’re lucky that the biggest “albatross” contracts we now have are Werth and Zim. There’s just no comparison with what the Braves are saddled with. Or the Phillies with Ryan Howard.

  11. Zonapunk - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Nats was robbed….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      Yes but keep in mind it was a 3-3 game and the Nats didn’t lose a lead.


      • jd - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:35 AM

        Good point ghost. A worse result would have been to use more of the bullpen in a long extra inning game and then still lose.

      • micksback1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        tough loss, the umpire and the clowns in New York can not suck enough. The no balk call is what i am most disturbed by as it was not even a debate, that fat ass umpire at 1st base needs to go back to minor league ball so he can rehab

        I saw something in Desi that I do not like…he first of all over reacted to the rookie pitcher who showed emotion after striking Desi out. First of all, Desi should ONLY be mad at himself as that at bat, like most of late was really bad. Desi swung at a clear ball in the dirt and looked clueless at that at bat.

        I think Desi’s throw was out of his anger from both the no balk call and his terrible at bat. I watched Desi’s interview and I would think more of him if he at least said, “my emotions got the better of me with that throw”

        instead he says that was the only way he could have made that play. Desi, you are a 240 hitter, yes the no balk call was terrible, but your at bat stunk and rather than stare down a rookie pitcher who made a fool of you, why don’t you behave like veteran and move on instead of letting that affect your throw in the 8th inning.

        I will not be upset if Nats do not resign him ina few years, I Hope he grows up

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        That’s a whole lot of speculation, psycho analysis and mind reading in one post mick, but I agree with you that if Desi was upset at the Phillies pitcher who schooled him, he needs to chill. Clip shows just as much emotion after a big strikeout. So does Drew. Personally, I think FP may have been overthinking that one. Maybe Desi’s look was more like, “Jeez dude, that was one heck of a slider. Where did you come from?”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        Didn’t seem a big deal to me about Desi. He was probably upset with himself.

  12. micksback1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    thinking of Maxwell Smart agent 86 when I read mark’s title, lol

  13. micksback1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    sec 22, your probably right

    I just think desi needs to be be more accounatble

    • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Saying Desi needs to be more accountable is like saying Matt Williams needs to be more bald. I don’t know of a major league ball player who’s more of a stand-up guy than Ian Desmond.

      • micksback1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        I never said he was not a stand up guy and being accountable after a loss and being a stand up guy are apples and oranges. I simply had a problem with his response to the play in the 8th inning. I have seen many other stand up guys over 45 years of watching this game, playing and coaching who would have said right off the top, I let my emotions get the better of me. You obviously did not see it that way, and that is fine too

      • sjm308 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:51 AM


        The Desmond contract will be a huge discussion point on here, no matter how far we go this year.
        Hard to believe he turned down what is rumored but it is what it is.
        I have watched both good and bad this year with Ian. I love what he brings emotionally to this club. I love that he is the first one in to calm a pitcher down. I love how his taking the helmet off a player who has just scored has now become a game among many in the dugout. I love his power and most of the time I love his glove.

        What bothers me is watching all these long term signings just sort of fade into the sunset. I think if he would sign for 3 years at more then face value, I might be ok with that but these 5 and 7 year deals just scare the heck out of me. I realize that Danny or Asdrubal are not going to measure up to what Ian brings us but I just worry that Ian at 35 will not be nearly what he is now.

        I do agree with Bowdenball that Ian is always right there, up front and eager to talk to reporters, win or lose. I guess you and I are just interpreting what and how he said what he did after the game. Nice to see you a little calmer by the way.

        Go Nats!!

  14. Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Not only did they blow the call on Revere at first in the 8th, but they also blew the earlier call the Phillies contested. If they had not blown the earlier one, then the Phillies could not have contested the later call on Revere. And both times the call on the field was by Crew Chief Gary Cedarstrom! Gary got em both correct in the first place. Yes, FP was right to wonder out loud about something smelly in N.Y.!

  15. Dave - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    In the main post, Mark Z. wrote: “Indeed, the Phillies won not only because they successfully got the close call overturned, but because they were able to make the most of the situation and manufacture the go-ahead run.”

    It was a frustrating night, and calls were blown by the local and NY umpire crews. But that’s not why Gio swung and missed at strike 3 instead of bunting the runner over, or why Desi overthrew Frandsen, or why the Nats didn’t get their act together more decisively in other ways.

    Shake it off and play another one tonight. There have been plenty of question-mark calls this summer that have gone the Nats’ way. Didn’t happen last night, but it’s happened.





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