TORONTO -- Kevin Pillar took the idea of manufacturing runs to an entirely new level by becoming the first Blue Jays player in franchise history to record three stolen bases in the same inning.In the eighth inning of the Blue Jays' 5-3 victory over the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, Pillar
TORONTO -- Kevin Pillar took the idea of manufacturing runs to an entirely new level by becoming the first Blue Jays player in franchise history to record three stolen bases in the same inning.
In the eighth inning of the Blue Jays' 5-3 victory over the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, Pillar stole second, third and then made an improbable run for home. Yankees reliever Dellin Betances had his throw home sail well wide of catcher Gary Sanchez, and just like that, history was made.
Pillar became the first player since William Myers on Aug. 16, 2017, to steal three bases in the same inning. He also became the first Blue Jays player to successfully pull off a straight steal of home since Aaron Hill did it against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees on May 29, 2007.
"It was a pretty cerebral moment for me," Pillar said. "There are a lot of things you dream about doing on the field, as a kid, getting to the big leagues. Stealing home is one of those things. What if the opportunity presents itself? How much adrenaline, how crazy of a play it is. You could definitely feel the energy in the dugout."
Toronto entered the eighth inning locked into a 3-3 tie. Yangervis Solarte quickly put his team in front with a solo homer to right-center field off Betances, but that was just the start of the Blue Jays' rally as Pillar followed with a one-out single to right. With two outs, Pillar took off for second and later stole third to set the scene for his eventual heroics.
With two runners on base in a one-run ballgame and Mpho' Ngoepe at the plate, Pillar started jumping up and down the third-base line in an attempt to distract Betances. The Yankees' reliever seemed unfazed by the antics, and his lack of attention ultimately prompted Pillar to take a chance. With the count 2-2, and Betances still not concerned about his lead, Pillar got a walking start off the bag and then took off as soon as Betances went into the set position.
Betances noticed Pillar's break for home almost right away and had plenty of time to record the out. He stepped off the mound and then appeared to panic a little bit by rushing his throw home, as the Blue Jays increased their lead to 5-3.
"I kind of looked at him and I noticed he was a little far away from third base," Betances said. "I thought to myself that I could try to come set, step off and throw, but I rushed the throw. I saw him going, I rushed it and threw it away. That's a big mistake there. You can't do that. I've got to keep the game closer with the hitters we have."
Betances was understating just how far Pillar managed to get off the base before the throw was released. According to Statcast™, by the time Betances got rid of the ball, Pillar's lead off third base was 50 feet. Since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015, there have only been three other players who attempted a stolen base with that big of a lead. Pillar's stolen base makes players 3-for-4 in those scenarios.
Pillar stole 25 bases back in 2015, but his number dipped to 14 and 15 during each of the last two years. One of his top priorities this season is getting back to that 2015 range, because he believes the Blue Jays' lineup, minus a couple of its big-name sluggers from the 2015-16 American League Championship Series teams, needs to find other ways to score.
"That was a goal of mine in the offseason," Pillar said. "I lost some weight, and I wanted to be just a little bit lighter on my feet -- become more of a basestealing threat. You go back three, four years ago, we were a team that led all of baseball in runs scored and home runs. We don't have that same lineup anymore. We have to find ways to manufacture runs."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.