Small mistake looms large in playoff push
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
The Nationals’ road to the playoffs is actually more like a tightrope. They have little room for error as they try to catch Arizona and Cincinnati in the Wild Card race, and every mistake over the next month will be magnified.
Such was the case on Friday, when the Mets scored the deciding run in a 3-2 ball game on a questionable throw and missed scoop.
In the top of the eighth inning with two outs and Daniel Murphy on second base, Andrew Brown hit a chopper to Ryan Zimmerman at third. Zimmerman, who has a team-high 19 errors this season, tried to make a difficult play and skipped a throw to first. First baseman Adam LaRoche couldn’t field the ball cleanly and Murphy ran around to score.
Given the situation, it probably would have been wise for Zimmerman to hold the ball. Though if LaRoche had been able to scoop the ball on an awkward hop, Murphy wouldn’t have scored and it probably wouldn’t have been a big issue.
“I’ll throw that every time,” Zimmerman said. “I got the ball clean and threw it. When I’m off-balance like that, I usually just bounce it. Rochie made a good play. I think the guy would’ve been safe. He came off the bag and unfortunately it took a funny hop and he couldn’t come up with it. But if he catches it clean, the guy’s out at home by a mile.”
Bench coach Randy Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson in the fourth inning because the skipper was feeling light-headed, gave Murphy credit for rounding third base without hesitation. Shortstop Ian Desmond said that he trusts Zimmerman in that situation, regardless of his throwing woes this season.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, put it in your pocket,’” Desmond said. “But at the same time, that’s a big play if he makes that play. I’ll take my chances on Zim making that play every time.”
In a vacuum, Zimmerman’s decision to throw and LaRoche’s inability to field the ball were not major blunders. The game could have turned on a number of other plays. But given the situation — both the Reds and Diamondbacks also lost Friday, giving the Nationals a chance to gain ground — those small mistakes suddenly look much larger.