It may not have been "The Catch," but an over-the-shoulder grab made by Billy Hamilton in Saturday's 9-1 win is one that will be talked about in Cincinnati for a long time.The Reds and Cardinals were tied at 1 in the fourth inning, and St. Louis was threatening after Randal
It may not have been "The Catch," but an over-the-shoulder grab made by Billy Hamilton in Saturday's 9-1 win is one that will be talked about in Cincinnati for a long time.
The Reds and Cardinals were tied at 1 in the fourth inning, and St. Louis was threatening after Randal Grichuk led off the inning with a double and Greg Garcia walked. St. Louis catcher Alberto Rosario lifted the first pitch he saw from Dan Straily deep to straightaway center field at Great American Ballpark at an exit velocity of 97.2 miles per hour, according to Statcast™. The ball sailed over the head of Hamilton -- who was playing about 12 feet shallower than the average starting spot of Reds center fielders during August -- and looked like a certain bases-clearing extra-base hit.
Unfortunately for Rosario, Cincinnati's speedy center fielder was undeterred. Beginning at a distance of 301.9 feet from home plate, Hamilton spun around with a first-step time of -0.2 seconds -- which means he was already moving when the ball was struck -- and took off at a dead sprint toward the ball. With his head craning up at the sinking liner, Hamilton ran straight back with a 95.6 percent route efficiency while reaching a top speed of 19.5 mph before leaping backward and corralling the ball with his fully extended left arm. Remarkably, neither Hamilton's top speed nor his route efficiency on a play in which he covered 84.5 feet in the blink of an eye would approach his top-25 marks on any play he's made this season.
"Nah man, it's just, that's my job, is to catch the ball," Hamilton said. "I don't look to make plays like that. If it happens, it happens. You don't go in the game being like, 'Oh, I've got to make a spectacular catch.' I do what I can to catch every ball that's out there for my pitchers and, like I said, keep them having confidence on the mound and everything."
It was an extraordinary snag that undoubtedly saved at least one run for Straily and the Reds. But just like Hall of Famer Willie Mays' famous play in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, the catch was only half of a spectacular defensive feat.
Garcia found himself way off first base when the ball landed in Hamilton's glove, and he tried to scramble back in time. Hamilton's momentum carried him into the wall just below the 404-foot sign, but he quickly bounced off, spun and fired a perfect relay throw over a distance of 214.9 feet (his second-longest of 2016 on any assist or double play) without a bounce to infielder José Peraza. The Reds' cutoff man had a clean exchange of the ball from his glove to his hand that took just 1.17 seconds before he fired the ball to first baseman Joey Votto in plenty of time to nab Garcia.
"We don't even really need to talk about it," Straily said. "I'm his No. 1 fan in his fan club, I think. That was a really good play by him and Peraza to get it over to first, right there. That was good. You just, like I said before, every time the ball's hit that direction, you just assume it's caught. He makes a lot of plays, difficult plays, he makes them look easy."
In a breathtaking few seconds, the Reds had gone from potentially falling behind in the game to turning an incredible inning-ending double play.
"These games like this that stay close as long as this one did, it always comes down to which play gets made and which one doesn't or which ball's just out of the reach of somebody, which pitch is made or isn't," manager Bryan Price said. "That was Billy."
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.