The Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-4 last night. Seven of those nine runs came on the six home runs hit during the game. However, the most important run of the game is not one that was scored, but one that was erased by Tyler Naquin, Francisco Lindor, and Roberto Perez.
As always, we begin with the play itself. I ask of all of you to watch this mindfully. Take a minute to breathe deeply, acknowledge the emotions that you bring into the video, and prepare yourself to be filled with the glory that is the one true faith: Bertoism.
There are eleven things to talk about in the play, and then about thirty-seven to talk about after the play. I will skip most of the post-play nonsense except to point out the striking resemblance that the man wearing the marsupial pouch required for the umpires to speak with New York is a dead ringer for Larry Culpepper, inventor of the College Football Playoff.
Okay. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, we can proceed to the beginning of the play. In this case, it is the following pitch by Trevor Bauer:
That happens to be a fastball over the center of the plate in the top third of the strike zone against Hanley Ramirez. It is worth pointing out that Roberto Perez called for the pitch low in the zone. Why? Hanley Ramirez adores a good high fastball. It is also a pitch that he is clearly sitting on to start the at bat. Look at his body language when he finishes the swing. His limbs are shouting, "Yep, that's about what I expected. And look, I roped it. I've been doing that since I was three years old in the Dominican Republic, tossing small pebbles into the air with my left hand and slapping them into oblivion with my right."
It screams into the gap between left and center field, and Tyler Naquin sprints after it. Defensive metrics do not think much of Naquin this season. Early on, the eye test suggested that he struggled quite a bit with finding the right route to the baseball. In my experience, if my eye suggests that a player is struggling defensively, it's a downright catastrophic; the plutonium is melting down so badly that uncontrollable runaway fusion is underway, and the entire power plant is slowly churning into a gravitational singularity which swallows the known universe by the end of the week. Burp.
Fortunately this is not indicative of Naquin's actual defensive talent. While coming up through the minor league system he rated as a solid overall defender with an elite arm. We got to see all of it at work here. Naquin gets a good read on the ball, beats it to the wall, and fields it cleanly. He spots Lindor, the cut-off man, and throws him a strike.
And here, a fun question arises: have any baseball wonks, sabermetrician, or magicians looked into the defensive value of an infielder who happens to be very good at relay throws? SURELY someone can confirm that Lindor is an elite exchanger, a perfect conductor of outfield assists.
Now, we arrive at the crescendo. At first, I did not believe that Roberto Perez tagged
Steve Brock Holt out. I began blaming the recent rule stating that catchers cannot block the base path, which forces them to stand practically on second base and try to lunge home to complete the tag. Then, I watched the first replay. This is Perez's reaction to the call.
Immediate confidence. This is a man hitting on twenty knowing that an ace awaits him. There is no doubt that Perez feels he tagged Holt out. There is no hesitation, consideration, or time to play-act. He immediately pops to his feet, points to Tito, and calls for the challenge. When any athlete does this — except for Dwight Howard — it is usually a good indicator that they are on to something. Let's take one close, final look at the actual tag.
There is clear contact between Brock Holt's body and Robert Perez glove — which does, indeed, contain the baseball which was hit into play — in this image. New York notes the sequencing of the events. They correctly determine that Holt's left hand touches the bag after Perez lays down the tag. He is called out, and the damage is held to a single run rather than two, which amounted to the difference in tonight's game.
I just want to emphasize how close this play at the plate was. Here are a few things that could have changed this play, and therefore the outcome of the game:
- Lindor's throw to the plate is slightly off.
- Perez never develops cat-like reflexes, and so he cannot spring back in time to complete the tag.
- Brock Holt hangs from a doorway pullup bar for one minute every day from the age of twelve to today, which extends the length of his arms by two inches, enabling him to scrape home before the tag.