LOS ANGELES -- Red Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury is not the first major leaguer to lose track of how many outs there were in an inning. It was here in Dodger Stadium in 1994 that Expos outfielder Larry Walker handed a ball to a young fan in right field, only to snatch it back when he learned there were only two outs, but too late to keep Jose Offerman from tagging up and going from first to third.
Asked about it afterward, Walker, anticipating the reaction, said: “Dah-da-da, Dah-da-da,” much to the delight of a certain entertainment and sports programming network.
Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani had a similar experience in New York some years ago, playing give-and-take with another young fan, and Milton Bradley once flipped a ball into the stands after making a catch that wasn't the third out while playing for the Cubs.
John Kruk, part of ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" crew, once confessed to a similar miscalculation after making a catch in left field, and in 2009, all nine Colorado Rockies on the field did not budge after a strikeout for the third out in a game against the Phillies. The catcher, Ramon Hernandez, even began to throw the ball around the infield until the plate umpire intervened.
Red Sox fans have watched Manny Ramirez walk toward first before the count had reached four balls, and what happened here Saturday would have qualified as a Manny moment if it happened to Ramirez. But it didn’t. It happened to Ellsbury, who headed toward the dugout after grounding into a force play in the ninth inning. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who had taken the throw at second to retire Xander Bogaerts for the second out, ran at Ellsbury and tagged him where he stood, halfway between first base and the visitors’ dugout.
But he was already out, as plate umpire Dan Iassogna explained to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
“He abandoned the bag,’’ Farrell said. “I didn’t think he was all that far off the bag, but they conferred after the inning was over and agreed upon the call.’’
The applicable rule in the Official Rules of Major League Baseball is 7.08 (a) (2), which reads, “Any runner is out when after touching first base, he leaves the base path, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base.’’
The rulebook goes on to explain: “Any runner after reaching first base who leaves the base path heading for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases.’’
Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler said he realized too late that Ellsbury was headed back to the dugout. He said he tried to summon Ellsbury back, but didn’t want to call out too loudly, for fear that the Dodgers would become aware of the situation. Ramirez already had seen what was happening and tagged Ellsbury.
“I guess I have to do a better job of watching the runner,’’ said Beyeler, who would have needed eyes in the back of his head.
Asked about the play long after Saturday’s game by Ian Browne of MLB.com, Ellsbury said he lost track of the number of outs for a “split second.’’ Of course, that hardly explains what he was doing in no-man’s land.