Donnie Baseball? More like Donnie Replay.
Utilizing baseball's expanded replay system, Manager Don Mattingly successfully overturned unfavorable calls on consecutive plays Tuesday night, playing a significant role in a six-run fourth-inning that vaulted the Dodgers to a 9-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Winners in four of their last five games, the Dodgers remain five games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
If the crucial fourth inning validated the judgment of Dodgers video coordinator John Pratt, it also highlighted the ambiguity of Rule 7.13.
Implemented this season, the rule was designed to eliminate collisions at home plate between catchers and baserunners. In short, the rule forbids baserunners from taking indirect routes home to initiate contact with catchers; the catchers, in turn, can't block a baserunner's path to the plate unless they are in possession of the ball.
But there are some gray areas. Catchers, for example, are allowed to block the plate without the ball and make contact with a runner if the umpires determine they can't field a throw without doing so.
"The replay's a work in progress," Mattingly said. "It will keep getting better, I believe. Language, I think, will get tightened up on that rule at home plate."
Asked if he would like further clarification on Rule 7.13 by the playoffs, Mattingly replied, "That's tough."
Mattingly said the rule has was modified. In spring training, Mattingly said baserunners were instructed to avoid contact with catchers at all costs. But Mattingly said he was recently told by league executive Joe Torre that if a catcher is blocking the plate, a baserunner can run into him.
"I think it's what caused a lot of this," Mattingly said.
Mattingly didn't know whether Montero blocked the plate.
"You can' tell," Mattingly said. "We can't see the angle. We can't see where the foot is. On a play like that, the catcher's moving, too. He's going fast. The positioning, his feet, could be a foot different than what he thinks and he's basically taking the lane away and doesn't know it."
Nonetheless, he alerted the umpires of the possible violation, later explaining there was no downside in telling them. Reviews of Rule 7.13 are initiated by the officiating crew and, as a result, not charged to any team. Each team is permitted one replay challenge per game; if the team wins its challenge, it is rewarded a second.
"I know that the umpires all talk about it, that they're looking at lots of stuff," Mattingly said. "They're trying to see where the ball's coming from, they're trying to see the tag. It's hard for them to look at everything. We knew that if once they look at that, everything becomes open to look at."
That's what happened in this instance. While the officials in New York were examining whether Montero blocked the plate — they determined that he didn't — they noticed something else: the ball was in Montero's bare hand, not in the mitt with which the catcher touched Crawford.
The original call was overturned, Crawford was ruled safe and the Dodgers were credited with their third run of the inning, increasing their lead to 5-2. Montero was charged with an error on the play, depriving Ellis of a run batted in.
In the next at-bat, pitcher Roberto Hernandez attempted a sacrifice bunt with runners on the corners. Hernandez's bunt skipped past Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill, who retrieved the ball and was initially ruled to have thrown out Hernandez at first base. Turner scored on the play to extend the Dodgers' advantage to 6-3.
Again, Mattingly walk on to the field. And, again, the call was overturned.
Ellis scored on a single by Dee Gordon that ended Cahill's night. Hernandez scored on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Gonzalez.
The Dodgers were up, 8-3.
"That six-run inning was huge for us," Mattingly said. "It kind of changed the whole game right there."
The Dodgers challenged another play in the fifth inning, when David Peralta of the Diamondbacks slid to beat Adrian Gonzalez's throw to second base on a potential double play. Mattingly said Peralta came off the bag while shortstop Hanley Ramirez's glove was on him, but the original call stood.