MILWAUKEE -- With a terrific catch and throw in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Giants, third baseman Aaron Hill is the early leader for Brewers defensive play of the year.
The Brewers had already spotted the Giants one run in the first inning on an error charged to catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and faced more trouble after Hunter Pence's well-struck single glanced off Hill's glove, giving San Francisco runners at first and third with one out. Brandon Belt followed with a flare over third base, where Hill made an over-the-shoulder catch, and planted his feet for a throw home to retire Buster Posey trying to tag up and score.
According to Statcast™, which began tracking plays across baseball at the start of last season, Hill traveled 80.9 feet to make the catch. It was the longest distance covered by a third baseman on record.
In an instant, a potentially big inning was over.
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"I think we're going to go awhile before we see a play that tops that for the season," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's an incredibly difficult play.
"I thought, 'No chance' at the runner at the plate. When you are running that hard to the outfield, you can't get anything on your throw. It is really hard to be accurate with that throw. He made a strong throw and a very accurate throw.
"It was a spectacular play. It really was a spectacular play."
Hill is in his 12th Major League season, but he is relatively new to third base, having manned the position 72 times over his first 11 years.
"You love for those plays to happen, whether it's spring or whatever, just so you get the experience," Hill said. "You're not going to learn without seeing the play or even failing at the play. It was a good test the first three days."
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Was he surprised Posey tried to score on the play?
"No, he should tag. It was the right thing to do," Hill said. "A guy going back, making a play, that was the right thing for anybody to tag up. It just worked out for our end."
Hill made another critical play in the fifth inning, when he fielded a bunt from Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija and fired to second base to start a double play.
"There were a lot of game-changing moments," Hill said. "Even [first baseman Chris] Carter, he had a lot of balls hit hard at him today, and 'Flo' [Ramon Flores] in center field making a great play. It's fun when you win games like this, where everybody contributes."