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Dodgers use extreme infield shift


SAN DIEGO -- Every once in a while in baseball will unexpectedly send a rare treat, like it did on Friday night. Sure, the Dodgers lost to the Padres, but years from now the outcome of this individual game won't be what lives on. The defining moment of August 29 at Petco Park was a defensive shift to end all defensive shifts by the Dodgers in the 12th inning.

The Dodgers already employed a five-man infield with Abraham Almonte at the plate with runners on second and third base, with center fielder Andre Ethier shifting over to first base. When Almonte walked, that brought up the left-handed Seth Smith, and the Dodgers did something we've never seen.

They kept the five-man infield with the bases loaded, but shifted four of the five infielders all to the right side.

"We have used the five-man infield, but not the four on one side," manager Don Mattingly explained. "Seth is a shift guy for us, and really we have the five guys so we put four on one side. We normally have three over there anyway for him."

Ethier was guarding the foul line at first base, Adrian Gonzalez about 30 feet to his right, Dee Gordon to the right of Gonzalez, and Miguel Rojas essentially at second base.

The play was the brainchild of bench coach Tim Wallach, and believe it or not, the Dodgers actually practiced such a thing during spring training.

"We weren't surprised by the situation or what Donnie asked us to do because we had practiced it, though we didn't get a chance to utilize it in a game," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "You want to give yourself the opportunity to cover as much ground as you can. We got the result we were looking for.

"These guys have done a lot of homework to see where Seth Smith hits the ball on the ground. We had really good position out there and got a ground ball."

Kevin Correia got the one-out ground ball he needed, hit to Gordon, but Gordon's throw home was wild and had to be caught on a bounce by Ellis at home. The slight delay affected Ellis's throw to first base, which was not in time to get Smith.

The inning extended, Yasmani Grandal followed with the game-winning hit for San Diego.

But the shift was the memory of the night. Starting pitcher Dan Haren, who turned in six innings with only two runs allowed, said he had never seen a shift that extreme.

"That was incredible. The play A.J. made on that ball was awesome," Haren said. "Those plays are hard. Players are out of their comfort areas."

Ellis agreed.

"It's always funny when you get to make plays you're not really used to making all the time. It's something we rarely get to experience throughout the season in an infield-in situation," Ellis said. "Maybe just the angle of the throw, it just caught everybody off guard. It was close. We had a chance to get out of the inning."

The Dodgers didn't get out of the inning, but that didn't make it any less memorable.