Defensive shifts — stacking one side of the diamond with fielders in order to take advantage of a batter's tendency to hit the ball in that direction — have really caught on in baseball over the last few years, but the Dodgers took the trend to a new level.
This happened on Friday night, but in case you missed it while out and about over the Labour Day weekend, here's the setup:
Tied 2-2 with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 12th inning at San Diego, the Dodgers' best way of escaping the jam, according to baseball doctrine, was to move their infielders closer to the plate in hopes of inducing a ground ball and turning a home-to-first double play. But with San Diego's Seth Smith at bat — a lefty known for pulling the ball to the right side of the diamond — L.A. manager Don Mattingly elected to place four men (including outfielder Andre Ethier) on the right side of his infield in a sort of Maginot Line (Mattingly Line?) between first and second base, leaving only his third baseman Justin Turner to guard the entire left side.
Play-by-play man Vin Scully said he couldn't remember seeing this before — and the guy has been calling Dodgers games since they played in Brooklyn.
The tactic makes sense given Smith's tendency to hit the ball to the right side, but you're running the risk of the batter tapping one through the gaping hole on the left, ending the game.
Smith, though, cooperated in full, bouncing a potential double-play ball right to Dee Gordon, who threw home for an out and would have made his manager look even smarter had his low throw not prevented his catcher from being able to throw out Smith at first for the double play.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the next batter, Yasmani Grandal, rendered the whole thing moot by singling home the winning run. But you've got to admire Mattingly's daring and wonder whether we'll see more of this.