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Over-analysis: a look at the Giants-Dodgers 9th inning rundown

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Understanding last night’s confusing play with a little help from a beloved 90’s baseball movie.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Hot take: A lot happened in Friday’s game.

To preserve some energy: I’ll just tell you the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3 to 2 and it was totally normal, totally fine, the Giants were in control the whole game, no question, no problems whatsoever, everything was very chill, very cool, ok? Ok. Moving on.

There was a cornucopia of interesting little scenarios, what-if’s, split-second decisions that made yesterday’s game the game that it was and a classic in the Giants-Dodgers storied rivalry.

To make sense of the madness (or just distract myself from worrying about today’s game), I decided to take a more in-depth look at a particular situation in the top of the 9th inning, that, if played out differently, would’ve shortened the game by like, an hour-and-a-half, and preserved some years on my life.

Let’s set the scene:

EXT. ORACLE PARK - EVENING

The Dodgers have just put two runners in scoring position with one out in the top of the 9th. Justin Turner stands at third as the tying run, followed by Corey Seager at second representing the go-ahead run. Will Smith steps up to the plate. This is the best scoring opportunity the Dodgers have had all game. The Giants pull the infield in…

Writing is hard. I’m tired. It’s Saturday. Just watch the replay.

This scenario was so bizarre because of how childish it appeared. Alex Pavlovic’s freeze frame illustrates this point excellently.

Two runners occupying the same base is a problem running rampant in T-Ball (they’re actually experimenting with the idea in the Atlantic League next season), but I’m sure Buster Posey, Justin Turner and everyone else involved in the play have not seen something develop on-field like this in a while.

Seager, as the “following runner,” seeing that Turner was caught trying to score, took third wanting to ensure that the Dodgers would still have the tying run at third after the conclusion of the play. That was the right move. Turner was toast. What caused this bizarre play to occur was Turner’s return to the bag. Instead of submitting to Posey’s tag after he saw Seager at third, he just decided to join him there.

I mean, it was worth a shot. It’s ingrained in us from an early age whether playing baseball or tag, the base is always safe.

But according to MLB’s Official Rules, Rule 5.06, article a, section 2, the lead runner (Turner) is entitled to the bag and the moment the following runner (Seager) is tagged, even if he is on the base, he is out.

So Posey does the safe thing, tagging both Turner and Seager. In the replay, It is clear that the moment Posey tags Seager, the third base umpire points and signals him out.

For how rare this scenario is in real life, it was a situation that played out quite memorably in the beloved 1994 release, “Little Big League” (a movie myself and, there is no doubt in my mind, Buster Posey (b.1987) and Justin Turner (b.1984) have seen countless times).

Let’s take a look at the clip wonderfully ripped from an MLB Network broadcast in 2013.

However dated that upload is (Giants blank Pads 5-0 with Zito recording the win!), the truth it contains is timeless.

The lead runner is entitled to the bag. Third base is Turner’s to leave and return to for all of eternity.

Buster Posey, of all people, should know this.

He is the Giants’ elder statesman. The wise old owl sitting in the clubhouse, always pondering various baseball brain teasers, studying game footage, staying up late watching and re-watching classic 90’s baseball movie after classic 90’s baseball movie...

So when both Corey Seager and Justin Turner inexplicably step off third, ambling in opposite directions, Posey was thrust into the predicament so artfully detailed by Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

Again, the photo:

And Posey chose the wrong road to go down.

Maybe the crowd was too loud, drowning out his inner Billy Heywood screaming: ‘Lead runner gets the bag! LEAD RUNNER GETS THE BAG!’—but Posey went after Seager, who was already out, on his way back to second instead of Turner, momentarily brain-farting his way off to the Dodgers dugout before recognizing his mistake and jumping back to third.

The chance presented itself. A double-play to end the game and argue over for the rest of the season.

I can picture the aftermath. It would’ve been a beautiful:

A stunned Turner looking up into the dark, Bay Area night for answers to Why? How? What?

Posey casually whistling off the field. A gentleman’s smirk splashed subtly across his face.

Oracle Park erupting into delirious joy.

But it didn’t go down that way. And with two outs, Chris Taylor bloops a single into the outfield and Turner giggles like a bandit all the way home as the tying run, having learned nothing.

But do not worry, for good things do happen in this world.

Fast forward to the top of the 11th inning. Justin Turner is again at third, representing the go-ahead run, when Will Smith hits a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Again, a throw comes home and instead of retreating back to third, which has worked well in the past, Turner barrels into home plate where Posey’s tag is waiting for him. A great, gutsy play by Crawford that results in a far less confusing play for everyone involved.

Buster Posey could’ve ended the game in the top of the 9th, but he didn’t. The Dodgers got a break, but the Giants and Buster ultimately got the biggest break of them all.

Baseball is governed by poetic justice. Even when it doesn’t make sense, it makes sense.

Does that make sense?