Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon is engulfed by teammates as they celebrate… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
When is a foul ball a triple play? When an umpire says so.
Particularly when it leads to a 5-4 victory for the Dodgers over San Diego, as it did Sunday on Dee Gordon’s bases-loaded, ninth-inning hit on Jackie Robinson Day before a crowd of 38,359 at Dodger Stadium.
Not that Robinson ever saw the likes of this triple play. But when you’re on a six-game winning streak, you take the breaks as they come.
In the top of the ninth inning with the score tied 4-4, the Dodgers were credited with turning their first triple play since 1998. With runners at first and second bases and San Diego cleanup hitter Jesus Guzman at the plate, Padres Manager Bud Black asked for a sacrifice bunt.
Guzman tried to oblige, but what happened after that remains in serious dispute.
As reliever Javy Guerra’s pitch arrived, Guzman squared to bunt. And home plate umpire Dale Scott said he did, though even replays made it hard to determine whether the bat did hit the ball.
Regardless, it bounced off Guzman’s chest and shot almost directly down. And behind the plate, where Scott appeared to initially throw his hands up to indicate a foul.
If nothing else, it should have been ruled a foul ball. But suddenly, Scott lowered his arms and signaled fair ball. Catcher A.J. Ellis alertly scooped up the ball and fired to third. The stunned Padres were just standing at their bases, apparently thinking the bunt was a foul ball.
[Update at 9 p.m.: OK, after viewing about a 22nd replay, it does appear the ball did bounce straight off the bat and not Guzman's chest as I thought I had seen from the press box replay.
This link from MLB shows replays from several angles, but the one near the end is the best shot, and it shows the ball ricocheting off the bat and not Guzman's body. A tough call, but apologies to the umpire crew who appeared to have gotten the call exactly right.]
So Juan Uribe threw to Dee Gordon at second, who fired his relay to James Loney at first, and the Dodgers had an easy triple play. It was only the second triple play the Dodgers had turned at Dodger Stadium.
Not that Black and the Padres agreed. Black protested, the umpires huddled and still ruled it a fair ball, and a triple play. Soon Black was ejected.
That set the stage for the bottom of the inning, when the Dodgers loaded the bases against Brad Brach on a walk to Juan Rivera, bloop single by James Loney, a sacrifice bunt by Uribe and an intentional walk to Ellis.
Gordon then punched a single into left for his first walk-off hit. One he is likely to remember.
The game also featured another home run by Matt Kemp, his sixth, and a so-so start for Clayton Kershaw, who again left without figuring in the decision. In three starts, Kershaw is 0-0 with a 2.35 earned-run average. Sunday he was charged with four runs on eight hits and three walks. Rivera also drove in two runs.