Dodgers’ Will Smith faces the music after historic loss – Press Enterprise

Dodgers’ Will Smith faces the music after historic loss – Press Enterprise

Dave Roberts has a habit. When one of his relief pitchers has a poor outing, the Dodgers’ manager likes to use the pitcher again in the next day’s game, baseball’s version of the concept of atonement. This has been Roberts’ habit in the regular season, and it’s carried over to the 2020 World Series.

One day after Dodgers catcher Will Smith became an infamous figure in a historic game-ending sequence, he did not get a chance to redeem himself on the field. Smith was the Dodgers’ designated hitter for Game 5 while Austin Barnes caught Clayton Kershaw, a typical arrangement this postseason.

Smith said he enjoys his turns at DH.

“I feel like I can help the team win whether it’s DH (or) whether it’s catching,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity to get in the lineup and help the team win.”

The 25-year-old catcher faced the music on Sunday, one day after the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Rays. It was Smith who dropped Max Muncy’s relay throw to home plate, allowing Randy Arozarena to score the game-winning run despite tripping as he ran down the third base line.

Before that fateful moment, a number of things needed to go precisely wrong for Smith to join an unfortunate pantheon of World Series scapegoats.

“I saw (Chris Taylor) boot it out in right field,” Smith recalled of a sequence that began with Brett Phillips’ line drive against pitcher Kenley Jansen. “I knew the (game-tying) run was going to score. I saw Arozarena, the game-winning run, coming around. In my mind, I thought it was going to be close. I didn’t realize he tripped and fell. I was just trying to make a quick tag, get it on him as quick as I could. I was a little quick, missed the ball and, unfortunately, it got away.”

Perhaps just as critically, Smith said he didn’t expect Muncy to cut off Taylor’s throw from the outfield.

If the throw hadn’t been cut off, Smith would have been in a good position to receive Taylor’s off-line throw a few feet to the right of home plate. After Muncy caught the ball, Smith was best served standing at home plate – in position to receive a relay throw, block the plate, and apply a tag if necessary.

Smith didn’t know he had time to receive the throw from Muncy before turning to get Arozarena in a rundown. Instead, he spun and lunged toward home plate without the baseball in the web of his mitt, a mistake that ultimately cost the Dodgers an out – and the game.

“If I knew that (Arozarena tripped) at all, I just catch the ball, not worry about the tag at all,” he said. “I had no idea until I went to tag without the ball in my glove.”

Taylor, not Smith, was charged with the error on the play.

Initially, only Taylor was charged with an error on the play by Saturday’s official scorer, Steve Weller. The ruling was amended Sunday to charge Smith with an error too. Time will tell whose name is remembered alongside those of World Series scapegoats Mickey Owen and Bill Buckner for their misadventures in the field.

“It’s a heartbreak ending in the World Series,” Smith said. “We were a strike away from going up 3-1. Now it’s 2-2.”


Smith was also second-guessed for his pitch-calling in the sixth inning of Game 4, when Brandon Lowe crushed an opposite-field home run against Dodgers pitcher Pedro Baez.

The changeup had historically been Baez’s best pitch against left-handed hitters. Lowe’s home run came against a belt-high fastball.