This pitcher went full 'Matrix' to avoid line drive

April 17th, 2019

OAKLAND -- literally bent over backwards to help the Astros turn a double play Tuesday night, and, in the process, prompted a shrewd comparison from the home-plate umpire.

In the second inning of Houston's 9-1 victory Tuesday night over the A's, Oakland's Kendrys Morales lined a 91 mph fastball from McHugh back through the box, directly at the pitcher. The Houston right-hander leaned back to avoid being hit by the ball, which grazed McHugh's ring finger as it flew past. As McHugh fell on his back, shortstop Carlos Correa fielded the ball near the second-base bag and turned two.

Plate umpire Bob Guccione immediately realized that he had seen McHugh's nimble move before. Guccione strode toward the mound and remarked to McHugh, "That was 'The Matrix!'," referring to the movie franchise starring Keanu Reeves. An instant later, the video board at the Oakland Coliseum showed a replay of McHugh's brush with the baseball.

Guccione told after the game, "You could see [McHugh] just starting to duck out of the way. And [the ball] went right under his chin. And it reminded me exactly of Keanu Reeves and 'The Matrix.' And so I had to go out there and I told him, 'Man, that was just like "The Matrix."' He tells me, 'Was it really? I'll have to look at it after the game.' But at the time, I think he was able to see it up on the board."

Confirmed McHugh, "We both turned around and watched it."

McHugh's move, of course, was an instinctive act of self-preservation to avoid being struck by the ball.

"I've had a few close calls," he said. "I don't know if it gets much closer than that. But, thankfully, it wasn't coming as hard as it probably could have been."

McHugh (3-1) proceeded to allow two hits in six shutout innings. Summarizing McHugh's performance, Astros manager AJ Hinch said, "His slider was good, his fastball was good; his Matrix move was pretty good on the double play ... truly showing his athleticism."

McHugh sounded as if he'd prefer to avoid repeating such tests. Asked if he seen "The Matrix," he said, "Yeah."

Did he learn his nimble maneuver from the movie? "No."