“That was not a good picture to see,” Johnson said. “We’ve been pretty good, but that wasn’t pretty.”
Johnson believes the proper play in that situation — first and third, no outs, tie game, infield in — is to send the runner from first base (Carroll) on the pitch. In fact, such a move is considered almost standard. You run the risk of a line-out double play, but almost completely eliminate the more likely risk of a groundball double play.
“For me, it’s easy: You send the runner,” said Nationals special assistant Pat Corrales, a former big league manager and longtime bench coach to Bobby Cox in Atlanta. “Bobby would tell you the same thing.”
For one thing, since the runner on first is essentially meaningless (the runner on third being the winning run), the opponents would almost certainly cede the stolen base without a play — particularly when, with the infield in, defending against the stolen base would leave a huge hole for the batter to potentially slash a grounder through.
For another thing, with the runner in motion, should the batter hit a groundball, the only play for an infielder would be to look the lead runner back to third, then go to first. The go-ahead run would still be at third, with one out, where a flyball to the outfield scores him.
But there is still one deeper layer to the strategy. If the runner on first steals second, the opposition would probably respond by intentionally walking the batter, thus creating force outs at every base and the greater likelihood of a double play. But had the Marlins done so, they would have been walking a weaker batter (Solano) for a stronger one (on-deck hitter Bernadina). Yet another reason for the Nationals to have sent Carroll.
Finally, with the Nationals’ coaches on their own, there was also a mix-up between Porter, the third base coach, and Trent Jewett, the first base coach. The former wanted Carroll to run; the latter told him to stay. Carroll listened to Jewett, who was closer in proximity.
“If I had it to do over again,” Carroll said, “I’d just go ahead and steal [on the] first pitch.”