Postseason drama heightened by pivotal replay reviews

Postseason drama heightened by pivotal replay reviews

In what has already been a landmark year for instant replay in Major League Baseball, the postseason is showing the value of the system put in place before the season.

Two of the most dramatic games of 2014 were fueled by two of the most dramatic replay reviews in the sport's history Saturday night. Each National League Division Series Game 2 featured a pivotal close call that led to a review. The rulings ultimately changed the shape of the game, the series -- and quite possibly the postseason.

First, in Washington. Pablo Sandoval's two-out, ninth-inning double plated Joe Panik with the tying run for the Giants, with Buster Posey rumbling right behind him. Posey slid across home plate with what could have been the go-ahead score. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos applied the tag. Home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza ruled Posey out.

After manager Bruce Bochy challenged the call, a tense hush fell over Nationals Park as the play was reviewed. Soon enough, with a simple signal of "out," the crowd erupted in approval.

"It's one of those where I think if I'm called safe on the field, it probably stands," Posey said afterward.

Ultimately, the ruling didn't hurt the Giants, as they took a 2-0 NLDS lead after Brandon Belt's 18th-inning home run ended the longest game (six hours, 23 minutes) in postseason history. But it certainly changed the complexion of the series given that both teams had to dig deepinto their bullpens for an extra nine frames. Had Posey been ruled safe, maybe San Francisco's Yusmeiro Petit, who tossed six innings in relief, would still be available to start Game 4.

In the night's other game, the crucial replay came much earlier, but it proved just as pivotal. With men on first and third and nobody out in the bottom of the third inning, the Dodgers' Dee Gordon hit a slow chopper to second base.

With Zack Greinke trying to avoid a tag, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong reached his glove out and nicked the Dodgers pitcher on the shoulder. Only he forgot one thing: the baseball. Wong held the ball in his right hand, while flailing at Greinke with his left (glove) hand.

After a brief pause, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly emerged from the dugout and asked for a review. He was promptly proven correct, and the call was overturned.

"We actually didn't see the tag, to be honest with you," Mattingly said. "I thought the play at first was close, and that's why we held [Yasiel Puig] back [from going up to bat]. And John Pratt -- actually the video guy -- we called and checked on that. But he said [Wong] tagged [Greinke] without the ball in the glove. So that's when we really basically went out to talk about that."

The only real debate surrounding the call was the rundown that never happened. Greinke was stuck in the middle of the basepath and likely would have been hung out to dry had he been initially ruled safe. Instead, he was simply awarded second base after the call was overturned.

Greinke scored shortly thereafter on an Adrian Gonzalez single, and the Dodgers won the game by a run, 3-2, to even the series at a game apiece.

"That's one of those funny plays that probably isn't caught without the replay system right now, which it wasn't," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "It ended up coming around and not just costing us extra pitches, but ended up costing a run."

The day before also offered a pair of important replays. Nick Markakis' two-run home run was confirmed in the Orioles' 7-6 win over the Tigers in Game 2 of their ALDS, and Bochy won a challenge that led to the game's first run in the Giants' 3-2 win in the NLDS opener.

Markakis' two-run blast bounced off the grounds' crew shed roof in right field and back onto the field. Right-field umpire Paul Schreiber signaled that it was a home run, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus requested a review. Schreiber's call was confirmed, as the Camden Yards ground rules state that any fly ball hitting that shed and bouncing back into play is a homer.

In Game 1 between the Giants and Nationals, San Francisco's Travis Ishikawa led off the top of the third with a single and pitcher Jake Peavy pushed a sacrifice bunt to the right side that was fielded by Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche. Instead of taking the out, LaRoche wheeled and fired to second. Umpire Tom Hallion called Ishikawa out.

The replay clearly showed that Ishikawa was safe and the call was overturned after an official review of just one minute and one second. Ishikawa scored the first run of the series on Panik's single two batters later.

Less than a week into the 2014 postseason, the playoffs have already produced a handful of incredibly gripping reviews. As October progresses and the games begin to get even more important, the drama will only continue to build when the umpires are asked to take a second look.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.