LOS ANGELES -- Ben Zobrist took responsibility, but it was Javier Baez who misread a play, and the miscue cost the Cubs in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. Manager Joe Maddon doesn't anticipate the same thing to happen in October.
The Cubs and Dodgers were scoreless with one out in the eighth, and Los Angeles loaded the bases as reliever Trevor Cahill hit a batter, then fielded Howie Kendrick's grounder and overthrew first for an error. Corey Seager was intentionally walked, and Maddon called on rookie Carl Edwards Jr., who struck out Justin Turner on a 97-mph fastball.
In the climactic moment of a game that iconic Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said "all boiled down to a whisper, a toenail, a 'toe dance' around second base," Adrian Gonzalez -- with the Zobrist shifted back at second base -- hit a grounder to Baez at third, and Baez threw to second. But Zobrist was late to the bag, and everyone was safe. A run scored, and that's all the Dodgers needed to take the series.
Scully had every angle of the play covered.
"Javier Baez handling the ground ball, but the problem was the second baseman, Zobrist, was five feet into right field. By the time Zobrist got to the bag, the throw was late.
"That was the problem -- the fact that you can't have a second baseman playing so far away and then ask him to get to the bag. It was a foot race between Seager and Zobrist. They were really foot-to-foot. It was that close! ... For [second-base umpire] Alfonso Marquez, a tough call. They don't get much tougher than that.
"After all this battling, it comes down to a 'toe dance' at second base."
The Cubs did challenge the ruling at second, but after review, the call stood. That didn't make Baez or Zobrist feel any better.
"He made a mistake," Maddon said of Baez. "I've made mistakes when I was that age. He made a mistake today."
Because Gonzalez is a slow runner, Baez had a much better chance of throwing him out at first, which would've ended the inning. But Baez said he was thinking about throwing the second as soon as he got the ball.
"I wasn't expecting [Zobrist] going late that way," Baez said. "We just didn't communicate, obviously. I completely forgot about who was running down the line. We weren't holding [Seager] at first with the bases loaded. At the moment, I was going back with the ground ball and I saw Zo going full speed to the bag, and I decided to go to second. [Seager] just beat the throw. You can't do anything about it."
Zobrist said he should've said something to Baez.
"He saw me out of the corner of his eye and that was his reaction to go to second since that's where the ball was taking him," Zobrist said. "We just have to communicate ahead of time. Sometimes you're in odd positions out there for various hitters and you have to communicate ahead of time to guys around you as to where you're at so they know."
Maddon will use this as another teaching moment for the young Cubs, who finished their West Coast swing with a winning record (5-4) despite losing the last two games to the Dodgers. Baez has been a mini-Zobrist, playing everywhere in the infield.
"He has as much instinct for the game as anybody I've ever been around," Maddon said of Baez. "He just misread the moment right there. I'd like to believe they'll communicate in the future so when Zo's way over, that ball's hit right there, I know I've got to go to first base."
Seager capped a rough day for Baez by making a nifty play on his grounder for the second out of the ninth. Baez was more frustrated with the defensive gaffe.
"It's a tough play and it's a reaction play and it's a feel play," Zobrist said, "but if we communicate ahead of time, he knows right away when he catches the ball, to go to first base with it. He can't field the blame on himself, it's everybody out there. It's myself. I really feel it's more my responsibility being the older guy out there. He's still very young and playing all over the place and sometimes we can all get a little lackadaisical with our communication when we're in those various positions. We have to stay on that and try to do better next time."
Especially if it's October baseball.
Andrew Toles scored from third on the play, and the Dodgers held on in the top of the ninth to take the three-game series.
"We blinked, and they win," Maddon said.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.