Walk-off defense: Ranking the coolest ways to end a baseball game in the field
On Sunday night, we saw a tightly contested game between the Astros and Red Sox, two of the best teams in the American League. The two contenders traded blows all game long, with the teams combining for five dingers on the night. Naturally, the game ended on a caught stealing when defensive wizard
POOF. In a literal blink, the game was over. Minute Maid Park was silenced, and
So as much as we love walk-off homers that send stadiums across America into pandemonium, defense can end baseball games in similarly spectacular fashion. Here are a few of my favorite examples from recent years:
The Rangers had done everything right in this inning. Down, 6-3, against then-Mariners closer
Injuries and inconsistent performance have substantially negated the luster on the shiny new toy the baseball world received in 2013 known as Yasiel Puig. But let us not forget how outrageously fun Puig was for his rookie summer with the Dodgers. The 22-year-old arrived in the big leagues with barely any Minor League time and a whole lot of mystery. And then in his first career game he makes this otherworldly throw and Puig-mania had officially begun. This was the coming-out party for Yasiel Puig's right arm, which we have come to know so well.
The only thing cooler than a walk-off caught stealing is a walk-off backpick to first base. This one was courtesy of David Ross back in 2015.
Forget running. You can't even lead with Grandpa Rossy behind the dish.
Perhaps the only thing better than hitting a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning is robbing a go-ahead home run in the 9th inning. Gomez did just that on this long fly ball off the bat of Votto to preserve the Brewers victory. Votto refused to believe what had just happened:
He begged the umpires to make Gomez show the ball he had supposedly caught before Gomez eventually took it out of his glove and tossed it to his closer,
2. Detroit's extra-inning relay -- 4/17/13
This was a fittingly ridiculous end to a 4-hour 27-minute,14-inning affair in which the Tigers and Mariners combined to strike out 40 (!!!) times and strangely also combined to leave 40 (!!!) men on base. Smoak was certainly not the most optimal baserunner to have trying to score from first base, but in a game with so few scoring opportunities, they obviously had to send him. But a picture-perfect relay started by Torii Hunter gave catcher
1. "OHHHH JACKSON" -- 8/21/11
This is the gold standard for game-ending defensive highlights. Plays at the plate are exciting, but their main drawback is that you can't always anticipate when one is about to happen. Situations like this, however, are the defensive equivalent of what you dream about when you're playing in the backyard -- 3-2 count, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. You know the play at the plate is coming, and the tension builds quickly. It feels like the three seconds that the ball hangs in the air deserves a drum roll for the inevitably awesome baseball play that is about to happen. And what's a great defensive highlight without an outstanding call from the broadcast? OHHHH JACKSON, indeed. Cheers to you, Austin.