BOSTON -- Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi often taunts teammate Mookie Betts that he is the faster of the two exciting outfielders.
Amid a crazy game-turning play in the eighth inning of Boston's 4-3 victory over the Pirates on Thursday, they were literally racing with each other -- not against each other -- to score.
Here was the situation: The bases were loaded with one out and the Red Sox trailed, 3-1. Hanley Ramirez smashed a drive to center that had an estimated distance of 386 feet according to Statcast™.
Starling Marte ranged back and tried to make a play that had a Catch Probability of 83 percent, according to Statcast™. This would have been a two-star catch (out of a possible five stars) for Marte. In 2016, he converted just 10 of 15 two-star catch opportunities, which was the third-lowest conversion rate in baseball among outfielders with at least 15 two-star opportunities. The league leader was Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, who converted all 21 of such opportunities.
That's exactly what Benintendi was thinking as he stayed close to second so he could tag up and go to third if the ball was caught. But as the runner at first, Betts knew that his job was to get as close to second as he could in case the ball dropped, and then race back to first if the play was made.
When Marte reached out with his glove but couldn't get it, it was clear mayhem on the basepaths.
"I read the ball good, but it was a hard line drive," Marte said. "I tried to catch the ball, but it was over me."
Dustin Pedroia scored easily, but he was also whipping his arm around like a third-base coach as he ran to make sure Benintendi and Betts knew they should keep running, too.
Benintendi went into full-sprint mode, and Betts was on his tail. It was going to be a close play at the plate, and Benintendi slid in safely to tie it.
With no open path to make a full slide, Betts awkwardly tried to slip his foot across the plate in time. He was initially awarded with the go-ahead run, but it was overturned after a challenge by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
"We joke about who's fastest all the time," said Benintendi. "I guess that kind of proves it."
Thanks to Statcast™, you can see that Benintendi might be right about being faster than Betts.
Benintendi's third to home time on the play was 3.34 seconds. Betts got in at 3.59 seconds.
"When he hit it off the bat, I was pretty sure it was going to be a double, but I couldn't really get into a full stride," said Betts. "I know Benny was doing his job and going back to tag and make sure. I kind of had to wait for a second, but it's just an aggressive play and they made a good play."
The play was most chaotic for Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield.
"I felt real good about the lead guy," said Butterfield. "Didn't feel quite as good about the second guy, and Pittsburgh executed and that's the way it turned out."
As the play unfolded, it was easy to flash back to a play in 1985, when Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk tagged out two runners at once for the White Sox.
"I did think about it after. I thought about that Fisk play," said Butterfield. "Again, honestly, they were getting so close and Mookie was coming so fast, I was really concerned about trying to stop the second guy as the lead guy was passing me and have that lead guy get spooked and stop. I just rolled the dice there for the second guy."
Even though the Red Sox went 1-for-2 on Butterfield's send, manager John Farrell was satisfied with the process.
"In that case, less than two outs, you're in a position where you've got to be able to go back to tag," Farrell said. "Mookie's flying in behind him and they were within feet of one another at second base. And at that point, I don't know that Butter's got the differential between the two to stop one and let the other one go. Mookie was off to the races. That wasn't a matter of Benny being too close to the base. That's the right read in that case."