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By Jon Weisman
The fates didn’t waste any time throwing the business at Corey Seager in his first Dodger game in nearly three weeks.
In tonight’s Freeway Series opener, the Angels’ first two batters hit grounders — including one deep in the hole at shortstop — to Seager, who has been recovering from a sprained left knee. Seager made both plays, as well as starting a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the second.
Seager had another assist in the third before letting a pop-up in the fourth inning to short left field clank off his glove for an error that would lead to an unearned run off Scott Kazmir.
The 21-year-old was busy on offense as well. Coming to bat for the first time in the bottom of the second inning, Seager squibbed a ball toward third base and raced down the line to beat out an infield single. In the fourth, he singled off second baseman Johnny Giavotella, went to second on a wild pitch, then came around on a Yasiel Puig single to score with a slide.
“He did everything you could kind of imagine on a baseball field,” Dave Roberts said. “His uniform got dirty, and he got his adrenaline going. He made some tough plays in the hole, obviously dropped the pop-up (but) swung the bat well. Just good to get five innings in. He’ll be in there tomorrow.”
Seager was also involved in the night’s controversial play, which brought on challenges from both the Angels and Dodgers. With Yunel Escobar on first base with one out in the fifth, Craig Gentry grounded to second baseman Chase Utley. Utley fed Seager, who relayed to first for an apparent double play.
The Angels challenged the out call at first, and won. The Dodgers challenged that the batter should be out for runner’s interference, based on the new sliding rule enacted this offseason, but lost.
“It was kind of interesting,” Roberts said. “Talking to the umpires, they said there needs to be a little bit more clarity, because there wasn’t an attempt to touch the bag, to touch the base at second. And so we challenged that in the sense of expecting the batter-runner to be out at first base, (but) they said because it didn’t impede the throw.”
Essentially, a combination of Escobar being close enough to the bag and Seager being far enough away made the slide legal enough in the eyes of the umpires. But it signaled that application of the rule in its inaugural season would, no surprise, be a work in progress.
“As I understand it, the rule is in face to protect the middle infielders,” Roberts said, “so the biggest deterrent would be an automatic double play when there’s no attempt to touch second base. So that’s why we challenged.”