PHOENIX – When Don Mattingly jogged out to ask the umpires to take a second look at whether catcher Miguel Montero had improperly blocked the plate while attempting to apply a tag on Carl Crawford in the fourth inning Tuesday night, he had a hidden agenda.
Mattingly later admitted he had no idea whether Montero was in violation of Rule 7.13, the one put in place this season to protect catchers and baserunners from serious injuries during collisions. For that matter, does anyone understand that rule or its interpretations?
“We’ve seen the same play and one guy’s safe, one guy’s out,” Mattingly said.
What Mattingly really intended was for the umpires examining the play in New York to notice what the Dodgers’ replay guy already had: Montero had the ball in his bare hand and applied the tag with his mitt. So, he asked the crew chief to review it knowing full well his initial argument was flimsy.
“We knew in spring training that, once they look at that, everything becomes open to being looked at,” Mattingly said.
New York saw what the Dodgers saw and awarded the Dodgers a run that helped spark their six-run outburst in the fourth inning en route to a 9-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field Tuesday night. Mattingly (and replay official John Pratt) were on a roll. They later got an out call on Roberto Hernandez’s bunt single overturned amid the same rally.
They nearly got a tick-tack call later, too. Had the umpires taken a longer look at David Peralta’s leg, they might have awarded the Dodgers a double play in the fifth. After reaching the bag safely, Peralta appeared to lift his foot off the bag while Dee Gordon was applying the tag after a throw from Adrian Gonzalez.
The Dodgers will take the 2-out-3 day in the replay department. They’ll gladly take another win against another hapless NL West opponent, too. The Diamondbacks are one of those teams this season whose right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing many times. Lucky for the Dodgers, the rest of their season could be largely about standing back and letting the other team beat itself.
The Dodgers are playing .707 baseball so far against the Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. Sixteen of their final 29 games are against those teams, who are a combined 66 games under .500. Presuming the Dodgers can maintain a modicum of good health and don’t go into some bizarre tailspin, it’s hard to imagine them not reaching the playoffs at this point. They have a five-game lead on the San Francisco Giants, but a 6 ½-game lead on the team currently just out of the wild-card picture, the Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers didn’t exactly play flawless baseball Tuesday. Starter Roberto Hernandez labored early, allowing five base runners and two runs in the first two innings. The late-inning relievers nearly took a blowout and made it a save situation – closer Kenley Jansen even had to start warming up though the Dodgers led 9-2 going into the eighth.
But the Dodgers and the rest of the NL West is a bit reminiscent of the AL East in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the New York Yankees reigned and the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays were still all lousy. They won their division with 87 wins in 2000. That ended working out pretty well. They won their final World Series under Joe Torre.
For teams with expectations like the Dodgers’, it’s all about setting up the big finish. If they reach their ultimate goal, nobody’s going to nitpick a soft schedule. Nobody's going to remember why they called for a replay.