Tim Wallach joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as third base coach in 2011 and held the position up until this season. Wallach now serves as manager Don Mattingly’s bench coach and among his duties is aligning the defense.
With the bases loaded and the Dodgers and San Diego Padres tied in the bottom of the 12th inning Friday, Wallach called on an unusual shift that brought Andre Ethier in from center field and positioned him on the right side of the infield — giving the Dodgers four men between first and second base.
The new alignment, from right to left was, Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas (closest to second base). Justin Turner was left to man his usual third base position.
The reason for overloading that side? Seth Smith was batting for the Padres and Wallach said he tends to hit ground balls in that direction, via the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
He (Smith) hits a lot of ground balls over there. Three’s good. Four’s better, right?”
Mattingly somewhat downplayed the shift, noting the Dodgers typically overload that side of the infield for Smith at-bats:
We’ve used the five-man infield before but never with four guys on one side,” Mattingly said. “With Seth we shift anyway so we just put another guy over there.”
Wallach’s decision paid off for the Dodgers as Smith hit a grounder to Gordon, who threw home to get a force out. Gordon’s throw was short-hopped and had to bug dug out by A.J. Ellis. The catcher attempted to turn a double play by firing to first, but his throw was late.
Had Gordon’s throw been on target, it may have resulted in a double play. While the shift worked on Smith, the Dodgers went back to a traditional alignment when Yasmani Grandal stepped in the batter’s box and it hurt them as he hit a walk-off single into right field.
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