Flips to kick saves, Tribe's top plays of 2010s

December 16th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Thinking back on a decade of baseball can spark memories of playoff runs, homers, walk-offs and other special moments. The past 10 years for the Tribe have included a wide mix of emotions, as the franchise morphed into an annual contender in a short window.

But the club didn’t get to that point without memorable moments. There were win streaks, playoff runs and new kids like Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez getting their first tastes of the big leagues. But best of all, there were unbelievable plays that will be shown in highlight reels for years to come. Let’s take a look at 10 of the Indians’ best defensive plays over the past decade.

1) Austin Jackson flips over the wall at Fenway
Date: Aug. 1, 2017

Dan Otero stood on the rubber with his arms raised high above his head. The Tribe had a 7-5 lead over the Red Sox in the bottom of the fifth that was nearly cut to a one-run margin when Hanley Ramírez launched an 0-1 pitch over the center-field wall. But Jackson tracked it perfectly, launching himself over the wall to make the snag. The bottom half of his body slammed into the fence, flipping his legs over his head as he hung onto the ball. Without a scratch on him, Jackson popped back into play with a grin on his face.

2) Behind-the-back double play
Date: May 19, 2011

A hot shot lined up the middle deflected off pitcher Joe Smith’s glove. Asdrúbal Cabrera had already made his break toward second base and had to slam on the brakes to reach back with his bare hand to field the ball. With his back turned away from second base to make the grab, the shortstop found himself out of position, but that didn’t stop him from making the play. Effortlessly, Cabrera flicked the ball behind his back to second to begin a slick 6-4-3 double play.

3) Bradley 'Superman' Zimmer
Date: June 3, 2018

The Indians were trailing, 2-0, in the second inning when Minnesota’s Ryan LaMarre served a high fly ball to deep left-center. Zimmer ran back toward the warning track and launched himself in the air to make the diving play. He belly-flopped onto the ground and saved his pitcher, , from trouble. But that wasn’t the first time Zimmer made such a play with Clevinger on the mound. Rewind to Aug. 26, 2017, and the center fielder made nearly an identical catch against the Royals, robbing Lorenzo Cain of a hit in the left-center gap on Players’ Weekend.

4) ’s leaping grab
Date: Sept. 4, 2019

The Tribe had a two-run lead in the ninth inning, but it was on the verge of disaster for the second consecutive night when the White Sox loaded the bases with one out. But Mercado was there to stop the bleeding. The center fielder lunged for a fly ball over his head, making a leaping grab before tumbling to the ground. The runner on third was so sure that the ball would drop in for extra bases that he didn’t tag up, allowing Mercado to be extra heroic by preventing all runs from scoring to help the Indians walk away with an 8-6 win.

5) Hacky Zach
Date: Aug. 30, 2016

A pitcher doesn’t always have enough time to react to a line drive coming back at him, and Zach McAllister looked like he had no shot of catching the low liner coming back toward his feet. The right-hander’s left leg was planted in the dirt and was struck by the ball. But instead of it ricocheting away, McAllister was able to kick it straight up in the air like a hacky sack, before he spun around to find the ball and make the catch. He showed his glove to the home-plate umpire and couldn’t hold back his laugh.

6) Pitchers can be athletes, too
Date: July 26, 2019

It's not every day that you see a pitcher lay out for a popup, but Zach Plesac did exactly that in Kansas City. The 24-year-old rookie forced Bubba Starling to pop up in front of his own dugout down the first-base line. First baseman Jake Bauers was playing too deep to get there in time and catcher Kevin Plawecki was still a few steps away. So Plesac decided to go all-out, making the diving grab as he skidded across the dirt near the dugout.

7) and José Ramírez team up to make impressive play
Date: June 14, 2016

Lindor was playing on the right side of second base and made a diving stop to rob Kendrys Morales of a single up the middle. The only problem was he was in no position to turn around and fire to first. Ahead of him, Lindor could see Ramírez, who had a straight shot to the target. Lindor shoveled an underhand pass to Ramírez, who made the easy throw across the diamond to record the first out of the ninth.

8) Gio Urshela’s jump throw home
Date: Aug. 4, 2017

With runners on the corners for the Yankees, former member of the Indians’ organization Clint Frazier hit a chopper to third. Urshela reached above his head, secured the ball and found himself in the baseline, heading into foul territory. The lead runner, Ronald Torreyes, was steps away from the plate when Urshela made a jump throw over Torreyes’ head in time to get the out at home, saving the Tribe’s 4-1 lead in the fifth. His impressive defense continued into the following inning, when he made a diving stop to his glove side and threw from his knees to nab Matt Holiday at first.

9) Carlos Santana begins triple play on a bunt
Date: April 2, 2011

Alexei Ramírez of the White Sox popped up a bunt down the first-base line. Santana came charging toward the plate from first and dove just in time to scoop his glove under the ball before it hit the ground. He turned and realized that Chicago had issued a bunt and run and flipped the ball to Orlando Cabrera at first. Cabrera paused for a few moments before realizing that the triple play could easily be completed by throwing over to second base to nab the lead runner, who broke on contact.

10) Living on the wall
Date: Sept. 14, 2011

It’s hard to rank what’s more entertaining -- watching a player make a challenging play or seeing his surprised reaction to actually pulling it off. Shelley Duncan was manning left field for the Tribe and in the bottom of the first, he lightly jumped against the wall with his bare hand gripping the wire in the fence. An out later, he had to race back toward the wall on a sharp liner and threw himself against the chain-link fence to make the play before falling down to the ground. As he made contact with the wall, Duncan’s mouth opened in shock and a smile grew when he saw that the ball remained in his glove. In the second, he slammed against the wall in the same spot once again. After the third catch, Duncan’s jaw remained open in disbelief until the ball made its way back to the pitcher.