A classic Dodgers-Giants NLDS should not have ended like this.
Will Smith pointed his finger toward first-base umpire Gabe Morales after Wilmer Flores checked his swing, prompting an appeal that’d either result in a strikeout that secured a Game 5 victory – and an NLDS clincher – for the Los Angeles Dodgers, or a 1-2 count for Flores with another chance to drive the game-tying run.
Morales, perched behind the bag, pumped his fist and stared back at home plate. First-base coach Antoan Richardson buried his face in his hands. Kris Bryant, the tying run who’d reached earlier in the inning on a Justin Turner error, dropped his shoulders and walked back to the San Francisco dugout. Flores — the recipient of what became a controversial, game-ending strike call — thrust his left hand out in disbelief.
Crew chief Ted Barrett was asked after the game if Morales stood by the call after watching replays.
“Yeah, no, we, yeah, yeah, he doesn’t want to say,” Barrett said.
That is just the type of clarity you want with a team’s season on the line.
The dubious check-swing call against Flores, which instantly drew criticism, gave Max Scherzer his first career save and the Dodgers a 2-1 win that propelled them to the NLCS agains the Braves. Morales told reporters postgame that “check swings are one of the hardest calls we make,” and those aren’t moments that managers can challenge under MLB’s replay rules.
“I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live,” Morales said, via USA Today. “When it happened live I thought he went, so that’s why I called it a swing.”
Eleven categories of calls are reviewable, and therefore challengeable, according to the MLB’s replay review glossary, and each manager gets two challenges during playoff games — as opposed to one per game during regular-season games. But check-swing calls and pitch location aren’t included in the plays that can be reviewed.
Mookie Betts said in a TBS interview postgame that he didn’t think Flores swung, according to USA Today, “but I’m not the one who makes the decisions. It is what it is.” San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler added that “it looked like he didn’t go.”
In a July 22 regular season matchup between the NL West rivals, Giants outfielder Darin Ruf’s ninth-inning check-swing was called a ball on a full count with the bases loaded, allowing the tying run to score in an eventual 5-3 San Francisco win.
Images that surfaced postgame showed that Ruf’s intent to swing brought his bat across the plate. The game proved to be the difference in the standings as the Giants won the NL West by one game over the Dodgers.
Ruf alluded to that play postgame, but said he didn’t think Flores swung in this scenario. Morales disagreed in the moment, and a 107-win season ended as a result.
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