Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen exemplifies the importance of backing up

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 24: Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays gets tripped up on his way to home plate on a single by Brett Phillips in Game Four of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 24, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 24: Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays gets tripped up on his way to home plate on a single by Brett Phillips in Game Four of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 24, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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The final play of Game Four of the World Series had all kinds of problems, and Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen’s miscue is an important learning lesson

What a game… Everyone watching Game Four was either excited out of their shoes or heartbroken after the Rays walked it off to tie the series. Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen came in to close out the ninth inning with a 7-6 lead. There were four mistakes in this one play that led to the loss.

There were runners on first and second with two outs and Brett Phillips comes up to the plate. Phillips hit a single into centerfield and the chaos begins.

First, Chris Taylor is unable to field the ball cleanly allowing Kevin Kiermaier to score easily from second base. The ball got so far away from Taylor that Randy Arozarena had a chance to score all the way from first base on a short single to center field.

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Second, Taylor makes a good throw into the infield to Max Muncy who relays the throw. But, he did not get a great transfer and threw a low changeup to the backhand of catcher Will Smith.

Third, the throw was catchable by Smith, but he was unable to field the ball and it gets by him. That changeup grip could have deceived Smith and made all the difference.

Fourth, Jansen being in no man’s zone. Taylor and Smith’s errors are clear cut and they will be torn apart for it, but Jansen had a crucial part in the play as well.

The Los Angeles Dodgers closer obviously allowed both runners to get on base, and eventually gave up a single to Phillips. But the play I want to discuss is such a small detail, yet so important.

To start, Arozarena would have been thrown out by a mile at home plate if Smith had caught the ball and prepared for a tag play. Arozarena took an untimely tumble when he was a little further than halfway towards home plate from third base, making the potential for an out even greater.

After Arozarena got to his feet, he even took a jab step back to third base, and realized the ball had gotten past Smith so he was able to score easily.

When watching videos of the final play, you will notice Jansen immediately goes to his knees in reaction, which is fine. He got up soon after but did not really go anywhere. Jansen wondered over to the third base line and ended up really close to where Arozarena tumbled.

Jansen was in no man’s land and as a former college baseball player, it hurt to watch. When I was in college, pitching coaches would constantly hammer down on pitchers who did not back up a base in practice, scrimmages, and games.

If Jansen were backing up home plate behind Smith, he could have fielded the ball causing Arozarena to stop and make a split decision. It could have led to a close bang-bang play at home plate or a rundown between home and third.

This is such a small detail and something that is taken for granted by pitchers all the time. I get it, it is easy to zone out and watch the ball rather than running to back up a base. But, this was the perfect example to criticize Jansen and to teach all young pitchers the importance of that play.

Am I being a little petty, probably. But I cannot think of a better example in the MLB where a pitcher not backing up made such an impact. All baseball coaches should save this last play in their phones, and show pitchers the importance of backing up.

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Overall, this play was a disaster by the Los Angeles Dodgers. It should have only led to a tie game but the Dodgers compounded errors on top of another error and so on. Jansen’s mistake was just a part of a chain of problems. The Dodgers have provided the Rays life in the World Series by not taking a 3-1 lead and losing a heartbreaker to sway the momentum.