Rookie Wilmer Difo was presented with a tough, split-second decision in the bottom of the ninth in the Nats' loss to the Mets on Tuesday night that perhaps showed his inexperience in situational baserunning. That, or he just got unlucky and simply guessed wrong on a quick play that could have gone either way.
The Nats had just tied the Mets with two runs off closer Jeurys Familia when Difo was summoned by manager Dusty Baker to pinch-run for catcher Wilson Ramos at first base. Clint Robinson was at the plate and Anthony Rendon was on second. There was one out and the Nats were hunting for a walk-off win.
Robinson fought Familia with three foul balls in a 1-2 count before hitting a line drive to T.J. Rivera at second base. Rivera caught the ball out of the air, but low enough so that his glove was touching the ground. Instead of running back to first to tag, Difo initially took off for second. That allowed the Mets to complete an inning-ending double play by throwing behind him to first, despite Rivera first throwing to second.
It was a confusing sequence and one that ended a promising rally for the Nats.
"That particular play was very tough, hard to read," Difo said through an interpreter. "I got a good view of the angle on the ball coming down, and my assumption was it was going to short-hop him real quick. I was wrong.”
Difo said he first thought the ball actually hit the ground and it didn't help that Rivera threw to second first in an attempt to get Rendon on his way back to tag the base. That could easily have tricked Difo into thinking the ball hit the ground, as either way Rivera would have incentive to throw to second.
Baker viewed Difo getting thrown out as a teaching lesson.
"He was just trying a little bit too hard, he'll learn from it. His run didn't mean anything so that what happens sometimes. Especially when you're excited and you're a kid. Sometimes young players will make mistakes and hopefully they'll learn from it."
That said, Baker acknowledged the difficulty of the decision itself.
"There wasn't much space between the ground and his glove. You don't know if he had trapped it, so that's a tough read. That's a real tough read especially for a young player that's trying to make his mark. We're not going to blame him," Baker said.
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