In the eighth inning of last night’s 5-4 loss to the Pirates, Neil Walker led off and hit a routine fly ball to left-centerfield, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis bumped into Mike Baxter as he tried to make the catch and the ball came loose.
Walker reached third base and was driven home on a sacrifice fly from Clint Barmes.
“I didn’t hear him,” Baxter told reporters after the game. “I should have taken a look. It’s 100 percent my fault. That’s a fundamental of baseball. Kirk has the right of way on that ball. I’ve got to get out of his way on that ball. That one hurts. … I was calling for it. But it’s irrelevant, to be honest with you. As off-outfielders, your job is to know where he’s at and if he’s going to make a play on it, you get out of the way.”
Nieuwenhuis also took responsibility for the blunder.
“I should have looked over at him, took a peek, and saw where he was at,” Nieuwenhuis said. “That’s my fault. … It was pretty loud out there in the outfield by the stands a little bit. But it’s part of the game. You’ve got to deal with it. It’s not an excuse. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make that play. It’s a routine play.”
I thought Terry Collins did an outstanding job immediately embracing Baxter while in the dugout during the top of the ninth inning. This is a kid who has found a niche and enjoyed a lot of success in a pinch hitting role, and so it’s important Baxter’s confidence not get shaken. It’s a moment where that can easily happen, but Collins recognized that and did what he could to ease Baxter’s mind. It doesn’t cure the loss, but whatever was said hopefully kept Baxter’s head on straight.