Dodgers undone by poor fundamentals
Furcal's three errors prove costly in Game 5 loss to Phillies
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre has been around long enough to know the importance of playing fundamental baseball come playoff time, particularly in an elimination game.But with the Dodgers clinging to dear life in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, they played a game more befitting a sunny March day in Spring Training than a season-deciding game at Dodger Stadium.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal suffered through a rough fifth inning, when he committed three errors to set an NLCS game and inning record. The Dodgers trailed just 3-0 entering the frame, but the miscues not only led to a pair of unearned runs but also seemed to take the life out of a Dodgers squad with little margin for error against Phillies ace Cole Hamels.Former Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis is the only other player in baseball history to make three errors in a postseason inning, when he had a tough day on Oct. 6, 1966, in the World Series. The last shortstop to commit three miscues in a game was Buck Weaver of the White Sox, when he did so on Oct. 13, 1917, in Game 5 of the World Series. "You go out here on the field to face an elimination game and we may have been a little overanxious," Torre said. "I don't think that's anything unusual. I managed experienced clubs, and we found ourselves in the same boat, and we had the same kind of personality. It's out there, you don't want to make a mistake." Furcal first made two errors on the same play when, with runners at first and second and one out, Pat Burrell sent a ground ball toward the hole at shortstop, where it bounced off Furcal and into shallow right field. The runner on second base, Chase Utley, attempted to score on the play -- and did, when Furcal's throw home sailed to the backstop.
|The Dodgers' Rafael Furcal became the first player to commit three errors in a Championship Series inning. He is only the sixth to commit more than one error in an inning in NLCS play:|
|Three errors in an inning|
|Two errors in an inning|
Three batters later, Ryan Howard scored on a routine ground ball when Furcal's throw to first base bounced roughly a foot short of the bag. It was Furcal's third error of the inning and his fourth of the series, also an NLCS record. He committed a similar throwing error in Game 1 before Utley's game-tying homer.First baseman James Loney finished off the sequence by airmailing a throw far over the head of catcher Russell Martin after retrieving Furcal's errant toss, but pitcher Greg Maddux corralled the ball before any Phillies could advance to save Loney from an error. Torre said Furcal's neck "popped up on him" Wednesday morning, and the club knew he would have trouble throwing, but the veteran wanted to play and the Dodgers did not want to replace him at this juncture after missing him for the better part of the final five months of the season due to a lower back injury that eventually required surgery. "Everybody knows the way I'm playing, I'm playing as hard as I can, try to make everything perfect, but I think when you try to do too much that happens," Furcal said. Furcal committed four errors in 36 games this summer, after committing 46 of them over his first two seasons with the Dodgers. After the fifth inning, television cameras caught an exchange between Furcal and Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, who told him to "keep your head up." "It's tough," Martin said. "I can't talk bad about Furcal because he's going out there giving everything he has. He's not trying to make errors. It was an uncharacteristic moment for him, but what can you do?"
|The three-error fifth inning for Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal matched the all-time League Championship Series record for errors in an inning -- by a team:|
|Team||Series, Game||Inning (Errors)|
|A's||1975 ALCS, Game 1 vs. BOS||1st (LF Washington, 3B Bando, 2B Garner)|
|Angels||1986 ALCS, Game 2 vs. BOS||7th (2B Grich, 3B DeCinces, SS Schofield)|
|Braves||2001 NLCS, Game 4 vs. ARI||3rd (3B C. Jones, SS Sanchez, P Maddux)|
|Dodgers||2008 NLCS, Game 5 vs. PHI||5th (SS Furcal, SS Furcal, SS Furcal)|
Torre also lamented a non-tag at second base when Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins slid around a tag from second baseman Blake DeWitt with one out in the third for a stolen base.If DeWitt had completed the play, the inning would have ended after Jayson Werth struck out. Instead, Werth's strikeout accounted for only the second out of the inning and the Phillies ended up tacking on two runs and knocking out Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley after loading the bases with two outs. "I just think we gave them too many outs," Torre said. "You can't give teams during the course of the year extra outs, much less postseason teams." It was a tough day at the plate for DeWitt as well, as the rookie grounded into rally-crippling double plays with a pair of runners on in the second and fifth innings on a day rallies were few and far between against Hamels. "They pitched better, they hit better and they caught the ball better," Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa said. "When you get this far, if they outdo you in all three of those areas you're not going to win."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.