Breaking down the fielder’s choice
To Brandon Inge, second base was the only option on Elliot Johnson’s ground ball, as you might have heard already.
“It’s very cut-and-dry: A ball hit to the left of you, you go to second base,” Inge said. “A ball hit dead at you, if you have the time, you go step on third, or go across the infield. But a ball to your left, you go to second base. That’s a fact.”
To manager Jim Leyland, Inge had other options.
“I thought there was an out probably at first, or probably at third,” Leyland said. “But that’s part of the game.”
To Ramon Santiago, he had to cover the bag.
“No doubt about it, I have to cover,” Santiago said. “Bases loaded and nobody covering, [Rodriguez] got a big lead off first. I got there as quickly as I can. It was close, but I think he was out.”
Somewhere in that mix, a potential inning-ending ground ball ended up being a walkoff fielder’s choice. Where that happened is up for debate.
Inge made a quick decision based on where he was positioned and what he saw. Whether he saw where Santiago was positioned when making his throw wasn’t clear. He threw it to the base, but Santiago was behind it and trying to catch up. I didn’t see a replay where Santiago was positioned and when he broke for the bag, but he said it was his immediate thought.
Sean Rodriguez, who beat Santiago to the bag, seemed to lean towards the covering the base part of the play.
“Inge got rid of it pretty good,” Rodriguez said, “but Santiago didn’t get there early enough, because the ball beat me there but he didn’t. His foot didn’t beat me there. … When I went to slide, I knew he wasn’t there yet.”
Regardless, it looks bad for everybody, of course. Inge and Santiago are the defensive options in the platoons at their respective positions. It doesn’t mean either of them are bad defenders, but it didn’t look like good execution. If it was, the game probably continues.