All season long, Dusty Baker has preached the impact that speed and heady base running can have on a game. But what Daniel Murphy did in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS showed the flipside of being aggressive on the base paths.
After drawing a one-out walk in the seventh inning, Murphy unexpectedly attempted to steal second base off Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez.
The decision backfired. Murphy was thrown out, leaving some to wonder why a player presumably still recovering from a left buttocks injury is trying to test himself in a critical game.
Baker and Murphy admitted afterward the steal was entirely latter’s idea, and was not apart of a hit-and-run or a called steal from the dugout.
“Our guys have a green light,” Baker said. “If they think a guy is slow to the plate, which Baez is. I guess the leg felt better than I imagined, because he’s running pretty good on that ball.”
“I thought [Baez] was slow enough for me to get [to second],” Murphy added. “Unfortunately he wasn't.”
The blunder took the tying run off the bases with Anthony Rendon at the plate, wasting another promising opportunity on a night full of missed chances. In other words, it was the type of mistake that gets magnified in the postseason.
“There's two choices on that, either be safe or don't run,” Murphy said. “It was a bad play.”
Caught stealing aside, the Nats were pleased to have Murphy back in the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 17. The NL MVP candidate didn’t appear to look rusty, going 1-for-3 with a walk in Game 1 and looked no worse for wear while fielding.
But stealing bases hasn’t been his forte in 2016, as Murphy only swiped five bags in eight tries in the regular season. So as outs become more precious for the Nats in October, so too is balance between when to go for it and when to play it safe.
“If you’re going to run, you’re going to get caught stealing sometimes,” Baker said. “Like I said in the past, that’s why it’s called stealing. And you’re going to get caught sometimes.”