LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers will not want to watch a replay of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. As they learned in the second inning Wednesday, it will not change a thing.
Convinced they just needed the replay officials in New York to overturn a call at home plate and continue what had been two days of momentum, the Dodgers got an out signal nobody expected. Even their opponent admitted to some good fortune.
Adrian Gonzalez's out call was not changed, even though replay seemed to show he got a finger or two on home plate before he was tagged on the shoulder and chin.
Instead of a run with more runners in scoring position, the end of the second inning arrived. Two innings later the Chicago Cubs were off and running, ending a 21-inning scoreless streak with a four-run fourth inning and carrying it to a 10-2 victory to even the NLCS at two games each.
Sour grapes, perhaps, from a Dodgers team that was sloppy on defense and was ultimately steamrollered by a Cubs squad that was expected to play this way from the outset. But momentum is a valuable commodity in the posteason and the Dodgers felt that theirs was taken away.
"They didn't say I was out, they said there was no evidence," Gonzalez said. "So they knew I was safe, they just didn't want to overturn it."
Gonzalez reached base on a leadoff single off Cubs starter John Lackey, and moved to second on a two-out walk to Yasmani Grandal. Andrew Toles then singled to right field, with third-base coach Chris Woodward sending the slow-footed Gonzalez home on a high-risk play, a gamble no doubt inspired by the fact that pitcher Julio Urias was up next.
Jason Heyward made a good throw to the plate, as Gonzalez went head first past catcher Willson Contreras. But plate umpire Angel Hernandez signaled that Gonzalez was out. Still with a card to play, the Dodgers asked for a replay and their suspicions seemed confirmed when the video board showed Gonzalez's hand beating the tag, sending the packed house into a roar.
But one man's obvious run is another man's dilemma with inconclusive replay angles and insufficient evidence that what actually seems to be taking place might be what happened at all. After a 2-minute, 51-second review, jury deliberations were complete in New York and the umpires signaled the sentence would stand. Gonzalez was out.
"For the most part, they get it right, but in a case like this, they got it wrong obviously, you know?" Gonzalez said. "That was huge momentum for us. Julio would get a run to work with, we turn the lineup over. There are so many parts of the game that change. We would take the lead against them there. We could have easily put them into a backs-against-the-wall situation.
"But because of that, they got momentum and they were able to beat us tonight."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ready to game-plan from a deficit.
"It was awkward," Maddon said. "We thought that they may call him safe, we really did. I don't know if it came down to it, but that whole hovering over the top [of the plate], you can't tell whether that hand was over the top of the plate or not, and I think that's what they had to go by."
If the umpires on the field were making the replay call, Gonzalez says he thinks the Dodgers would have taken the early lead. Gonzalez was asked if he discussed the play with the umpires working the game.
"I did," he said. "They didn't give me an explanation. They both said, 'From what we saw [on replay], we thought you were safe.' "
Gonzalez would not name the umpires, but he said neither of them were Hernandez, who made the original call. He expressed no ill will toward the veteran ump.
"Angel called what he saw and everything is moving so fast," Gonzalez said. "You cannot blame Angel. He will call what he sees, and this is not on Angel at all. There are so many things going on, he just has to call it. But when it goes over there [to the replay crew in New York], they said there was not enough evidence to overturn it. So they saw me safe, they just didn't see me safe by enough to overturn it."
So what is there to do about the concept that some members of the working umpiring crew saw it one way, while members of the replay crew saw something else?
"We all said that there should be independent people making the calls," Gonzalez said.
Asked if that means non-umpires reviewing calls, Gonzalez said yes.
The Dodgers will never know what that momentum would have meant. Once the Cubs grabbed it, they never let go.
All season long, the Dodgers have won the game of inches, and they knew how to not beat themselves. Neither area was available in the Dodgers' time of need.
The early close plays just never connected and not just on the Gonzalez play. Then there were the team's four errors, in a rare ugly display of defense.
With the series now guaranteed to go to Chicago for a Game 6, the all-important Game 5 on Thursday at Dodger Stadium will pit Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. It will be a rematch of Game 1, with the winner set to visit the champagne wholesaler in preparation for one last victory.
The Dodgers had other chances to take the lead early in Game 4. In the first inning, Justin Turner was picked off second base, when the throw from Contreras short-hopped under his body and was caught by shortstop Addison Russell. After Gonzalez's rejected replay, Chase Utley's long drive to right field in the third inning fell short at the base of the wall.
The momentum change was subtle at first, with the Cubs collecting their first hit off 20-year-old starter Urias, on a bunt single. Javier Baez singled. Contreras then followed with his own single, that for a split second looked as if it would actually benefit the Dodgers.
Toles, the Dodgers' left fielder, grabbed the hit on a bounce and seemed to have plenty of time to unleash his plus arm and nail an advancing Ben Zobrist at the plate. But his throw was so far up the first-base line it got past catcher Grandal, allowing not only Zobrist to score, but Baez as well.
Just like that, even the most invisible of Cubs were suddenly emboldened. The struggling Russell added a two-run home run in the four-run inning, sending Urias to an early icing. One inning later, hibernating Cub Anthony Rizzo hit a home run that started his string of three consecutive hits.
Rizzo was just 2-for-26 in this postseason when the game began, meaning that he surpassed his entire hit total from seven previous games in a span of only four innings.
Now the Dodgers will assume the role the Cubs just vacated. The series might be tied, but if it goes the distance, two of the final three games will be at energized Wrigley Field.
"Yeah, I'm a big believer in momentum and certain plays," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "You look back tonight and some plays shifted the momentum. To get a lead would have been big for us, and I thought we put ourselves in a position to get to Lackey. But he escaped. You know, credit to those guys that once we kept him in the ballgame, they got the hits when they needed."