Column: Dodgers out of sync, out of focus, out of their minds in embarrassing loss

Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said he was safe but that umpires did not have enough evidence to overturn the call. The Dodgers fell to the Cubs, 10-2, in Game 4. 


Yes, you’re right, scream away, Adrian Gonzalez was safe.

The replay showed it, thousands of fans at Dodger Stadium chanted it, and Gonzalez knew it, so emphatically he immediately jumped off the ground while jabbing his finger at the corner of home plate where he touched before the tag.

Absolutely, complain all you want, Gonzalez was clearly safe with the Dodgers’ first run in the second inning of Wednesday’s Game 4 of the National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs.

Holler at baseball for misreading an obvious replay and refusing to overturn an “out” call from umpire Angel Hernandez, who mistakenly thought catcher Willson Contreras touched Gonzalez’s jersey before Gonzalez slipped his hand across the plate. Protest that the Dodgers were jobbed and robbed and cost a chance to gain the early momentum that has been so important in this series.


Then pipe down and face facts.

Gonzalez was safe, but the Dodgers also lost because they were out. They were out of sync, out of focus, and pretty much out of their minds in an embarrassing 10-2 loss to even the series at two games apiece.

The Cubs defeated the Dodgers, 10-2, in Game 4 to even the National League Championship Series, 2-2. Can the Dodgers still pull off a series win with one more game at Dodger Stadium and at least one more in Chicago? 

In the end, the loss was not only about Gonzalez, but also about a lack of the sort precision that has been essential to carrying this overachieving team to within two wins of its first World Series appearance in 28 years.

The Dodgers lost not only because of a bad call at the plate, but because of bad baserunning by Justin Turner, a bad catch by Chase Utley, a bad throw by Andrew Toles, and a bad, bad sixth inning that deserved a Benny Hill theme song.

“The things on the bases and the overthrows and catching the baseball,” said Manager Dave Roberts, bluntly listing the Dodgers’ issues on a four-error evening. “This is very, very uncharacteristic of our group.”

That group entered the night standing tall with their cleats poised above the struggling Cubs necks, but ended it rolling around in the muck of past Dodgers postseason debacles, and you can’t put that all on an umpire.

“No one is out there trying to make errors but sometimes there is a snowball effect, a domino effect, and it gets out of control,” said Joc Pederson, who had a wild throw from center field in that crazy sixth.

Snowballed, for sure. For the first time this postseason, Dodger Stadium filled with boos. Then after after the game, the field level concourse was filled with Cubs fans singing their trademark victory song, “Go Cubs Go.”

All because of one bad call with seven innings remaining in the game, a call that ended an inning with the game still scoreless? Not quite. It’s not that simple. Although afterward Gonzalez was understandably preaching the narrative. “Let’s be honest, after that, we played a very sloppy game,” said Gonzalez of the bungled call. “But the game would have been a whole different game.”

Certainly, the Dodgers could have pushed Cubs starter John Lackey to the ropes, while giving 20-year-old starter Julio Urias a little breathing room, if Gonzalez had been allowed to score the run on a two-out single by Toles that revealed a flaw in the replay system.

Officials didn’t “confirm” the call, they announced only that the call “stood,” meaning they couldn’t find enough evidence to “overturn” the “out” call.

“After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official could not definitively determine that the runner’s hand contacted home plate prior to the fielder applying the tag,” a Major League Baseball-issued statement said. “The call stands. The runner is out.”

Why do they have to consider the original call in the first place? Why can’t the group of umpires in that New York studio just call it like they see it? Why not just get it right? The major league umpires working games are the best officials in all of sports, but why defer to them if you see something else?

Gonzalez agreed, saying, “I felt like I got in there before the tag. There should not be ‘This is what the call was,’ but ‘What do you see, safe or out?’ ”

Gonzalez said two of Wednesday’s umpires looked at the replay on the Dodger Stadium video board and told him they thought he was safe. He is frustrated that the New York officials couldn’t admit the same thing.

“They didn’t say I was out, they said there wasn’t enough evidence,” said Gonzalez. “They knew I was safe, they just didn’t want to overturn it.”

Before the clubhouse had opened to the media afterward, Gonzalez had already tweeted a photo of him scoring before the tag, writing, “Somehow this is an out. Take series lead tomorrow! Got to do this. Us against the world.”

When reporters gathered around him, Gonzalez reiterated his view that the game changed dramatically, noting, “It was huge momentum for us, Julio gets a run to work with, so many parts of the game that change, we take a lead against them right there, we could easily put them in backs-against-the-wall situation, but because of that, they got momenutm and they were able to beat us tonight.”

Well, not entirely. The Cubs were able to beat the Dodgers because the Cubs found their bats — 13 hits after consecutive shutouts — while the Dodgers lost their grip on fundamentals.

So close, and suddenly, one game could be make it so far.

After Tuesday night’s Game 3, the Dodger looked like a World Series team, and while they still should be favored to reach their destination, it just got a little bit harder.

On Thursday in Game 5, the Cubs will pitch Dodgers lefty nemesis Jon Lester, who held them to one run in six innings in the Cubs’ 8-4 victory in the series opener. The Dodgers will counter with Kenta Maeda, who allowed three runs in four innings in that same game.

It was a blown call, but it was only one part of this blown game, and Dodgers fans need to hope their no-excuses team doesn’t make it an excuse for a blown series.

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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