Kevin Pillar offered a masterclass in base thievery, so we broke down his straight steal of home
It's supposed to be scientifically impossible to create something from nothing. But Kevin Pillar did.
Usually, the only way to score yourself on one hit is:
- Hit a homer
- Hit a single and race around the bases while the fielders throw the ball wildly all over the field.
Pillar used a different tactic: In the Blue Jays' 5-3 win against the Yankees on Saturday, Pillar gave the Blue Jays a little extra breathing room by stealing home. But to get there, he completely frazzled Dellin Betances and the Yankees by stealing his way around the bases.
Let's break down just how he did it:
After Yangervis Solarte's solo home run gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead, Pillar came up with one out and no one on. He fell behind in the count, 0-2. That's about as close to an automatic out in baseball, as batters hit just .061/.088/.061 against Betances after falling behind 0-2 last year.
Unfortunately for the Yankees hurler, his 99-mph fastball caught way too much of the plate and Pillar smacked it past the diving first baseman. Perhaps on another day, the second baseman would have snatched it, but the Yankees had the infield shifted left for the right-handed Pillar.
Yes, even 99-mph fastballs can find holes:
The steal of second
Aledmys Diaz then came to the plate. On the first pitch, Statcast measured Pillar's secondary lead at 14.8 feet. A decent lead, but it didn't look like Pillar had already planned his "Ocean's 11"-esque grand larceny.
Diaz swung and missed at the second pitch, and Pillar was 18.2 feet off the bag. It was a big enough lead that the Blue Jays broadcast noted that the outfielder had "a big lead at first."
Pillar took off on the next pitch, as Diaz swung and missed at a pitch in the dirt for the second out of the inning. This time, Pillar's secondary lead was a full 21.4 feet, and he was nearly halfway to second base by the time the ball reached Gary Sanchez.
Look at how Pillar gingerly kept extending his lead -- almost daring Betances to throw over -- before sprinting for second:
The steal of third
After Luke Mahle walked to put runners at first and second, Gift Ngoepe came to the plate.
Now, there was very little reason for Pillar to steal third. A single would most likely have scored the outfielder, and the risk of getting caught and ending the inning was too high. Of course, being aggressive to make Betances uncomfortable was also part of the game plan.
"Those are the conversations that we have in our hitters' meetings, those are the conversations we have with [Tim] Leiper as far as guys that steal bases," Pillar said. "We know the guys who have tendencies, we know the guys who don't necessarily like to pick off to bases. Guys who don't initially want the ball in their hands. [Betances] and CC [Sabathia], we have to take advantage."
So, with Ngoepe behind 0-2, Pillar flew into motion. He dared Betances to check him, as Pillar had a 37.9-foot(!) secondary lead. Though the ball was in the dirt, it wouldn't have mattered -- Yankees third baseman Brandon Drury didn't even move:
The steal of home
On the next pitch, Mahle stole second -- hoping to draw the throw from Sanchez to let Pillar scamper home. Sanchez didn't fire, it it didn't matter. Because like an expert cat burglar, Pillar can steal the crown jewels in plain sight.
On the 2-2 pitch, Pillar took off. For only the fourth time in Statcast history, Pillar got a full 50 feet toward home before Betances noticed.
With the pressure on, Betances then threw the ball away:
"I 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."
Whatever the reason, Solarte was very excited. These are the dance moves that should soon sweep the nation:
This was a masterclass in how to steal your team a run, which Pillar acknowledged.
"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.
"Obviously it's a huge gamble," Pillar conceded. "But sometimes when runs are tough to come by, especially early on in the year, you have to go out there and try to make some stuff happen. Fortunately for me, he threw it away. But I guess that's the element of surprise and maybe panic sets in. It's just a play you don't see very often so it's a play that maybe not everyone is prepared for."
While Pillar managed to pull off the triple-steal this time, chances are pitchers will be prepared next time he's on first.