Had the Nationals not left nine men on base and made a couple of base running mistakes in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs, they probably could’ve overcome an awful call at first base and the ineptitude of Major League Baseball’s replay review system.
The Nationals challenged the call in the fourth inning when Danny Espinosa was ruled out at second base on a stolen base attempt. Catcher David Ross’ throw beat Espinosa to the base, but replays appeared to show that the Cubs’ Addison Russell didn’t apply the tag until Espinosa’s foot was on the bag.
West didn’t have a great view of the play, but the umpires assigned to replay duty at a command center in New York saw every angle in slow-motion and, after more than three minutes, upheld the initial call.
“If that’s not safe, what is?” MASN’s Bob Carpenter said after West gave the out signal for a second time.
“What are you looking at, New York?” F.P. Santangelo said.
The Cubs’ TV announcers thought Espinosa was safe, too.
As a result of the call, the Nationals didn’t have a challenge to use when Bryce Harper was called out on a grounder to short with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning.
Harper, who was clearly safe, lingered at first base after the call and looked back at Rob Drake, the same umpire who ejected Harper during a game in Arizona last month.
Again, the Nationals made their own bed Thursday night. Anthony Rendon was thrown out at second on a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play to end the first inning with Harper on deck. Clint Robinson was picked off first base with Rendon at the plate and Michael Taylor representing the tying run at second — the Nationals’ worst TOOTBLAN of the season — to end the game. In between, the umpires and MLB’s replay review system failed the Nats.
If it feels like the Nationals have had bad luck with challenges this season, it’s because they have. Manager Matt Williams has challenged nine calls this season and three have been overturned. Opponents have challenged 12 calls against the Nationals and all 12 have been overturned. Across MLB, 46 percent of the calls challenged this season have been overturned.
(Replay review data courtesy of Baseball Savant)