Javy Baez was getting in work at first base last night, and he showed off his impressive athleticism and instinct. When an extreme shift is on for a lefty, you obviously notice the three defenders on the right side, instead of the usual two, but what you might not always notice is the huge open space it creates to the right of the first baseman and to the left of the shifted-over shortstop (the “second baseman” – which is sometimes the third baseman or shorstop moved over into the second base-ish spot), because the second baseman is playing deep into the outfield.
On a bouncer into that no man’s land last night, Baez peeled off his spot at first base to make a quick snag of the bouncer and a crazy throw to Trevor Cahill at first base (good on Cahill for hustling over, too):
Did Baez have to take that one? Probably not. It would have been very close no matter who went after that one, and, without a ton of experience at first base to know which balls to go after and which ones to leave (especially when there’s a shifted defense), I can’t complain in the least about Baez going after that one (and I wouldn’t have said anything if he’d stayed at home, either). The end result was a killer play.
Albert Almora was doing Albert Almora things:
Almora gets such a quick and perfect read and break on the ball that not only does he cover a huge amount of ground to get there, but he actually is almost able to be past the ball by the time it reaches his glove.It might not look like much of a catch, but if you really zero in on how perfectly he’s immediately tracking that ball, and then look back at where he started and where he ended, you get a real taste of what makes Almora so special in center field. It’s not just the diving catches (which are spectacular), but it’s also the way he makes what would have otherwise been really tough plays look routine.
And how about Willson Contreras last night? Not only did he go 3-3 with two doubles at the plate, he also showed off a freaking canon behind the plate. First, he’s gunning down a runner trying to steal:
That’s not a bad jump, but Contreras gets a perfect, authoritative throw in there. Sure, he was helped by the pitch’s location, but it didn’t get on him all that quickly.
This was the play of the night for me, though:
That was not a designed play. That was simply Contreras looking at the runner on first after a pitch, seeing that he was straying too far and taking his time to get back, deciding in a split second to fire to first, and putting a freaking bullet on the money. It’s a risky play, and it works only if the execution is perfect. Which it was. I loved it.