Major League Baseball is the only sport where the defense puts the ball in play. That unique responsibility carries with it a minimal amount of concentration and care for the most benign of tasks — such as a seemingly routine return throw from the catcher to the pitcher after ball one has been pitched. Colorado Rockies righty Jhoulys Chacin didn't take enough care Thursday afternoon, and it cost his team a run — and a loss — against the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta's Juan Francisco scored from third base in the second inning after Chacin muffed a throw from catcher Willin Rosario for an error that allowed the ball to get away, leading to the only run in a 1-0 Braves victory.
How does such a thing happen? Braves announcer Joe Simpson said he thought Chacin was upset with his location at the previous pitch and "kind of slapped at the baseball" as he took his eyes off it. That seems about right to me, too. Rockies manager Jim Tracy, via reporter Troy Renck of the Denver Post, wasn't that interested in specifics:
"That's a first for me in 11 years (and) it's very difficult for me to take. I don't know what the hell happened."
The hell, indeed. That's twice in two games that the Braves have beaten the Rockies 1-0 with an unearned run. Third-generation broadcaster Chip Caray said it all in the Chacin clip, if you were listening:
"I've never seen that in a major-league game."
But it has happened before. And Tim Hudson, the Braves starting pitcher, saw it go down.
Back in 2005, the Oakland Athletics actually won a game in the ninth inning when a similar play happened with Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod mishandled a throw from Jose Molina of the Angels and Jason Kendall of the A's scooted in from third for the winning run. Hudson didn't pitch that game, but he was in the dugout. That must have been a real bummer for the Angels, man. At least the Rockies had several innings to try and come back.
Funny thing: If it had been the umpire throwing the ball to Chacin — which happens sometimes after a foul or ball switcheroo — and the throw got loose, the play would have remained dead and Francisco wouldn't have been allowed to score.
From now on, Rockies catchers should just hand the ball to the blue guy behind home plate and have him make the throw to the mound. It's much safer that way.