ST. LOUIS -- The Blue Jays' team motto this year is "Let's Rise." Chris Coghlan took it to a new level during Tuesday's 6-5, 11-inning victory over the Cardinals with one of the most acrobatic "slides" ever seen.
Coghlan turned what appeared to be a guaranteed out into a Blue Jays run by soaring over the head of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the seventh inning of a tied game. Molina appeared to have Coghlan out on arrival, but clearly, the veteran utility man had other ideas.
The play was the most memorable highlight in a wild game that featured three Cardinals comebacks, including one in the ninth. And the winning run? That was scored by Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, who started the decisive rally with a pinch-hit double in the 11th.
"I was coming around third, and I looked to my left to see where the ball was," Coghlan said. "I saw it was going to beat me, and then, probably the last step or two, I saw Yadi go down. Your first thought is, 'OK, I'm going to run him over because he's right over the plate.' Then I was thinking, since he was down, 'Why don't you jump?' I just jumped, and the rest is history."
History is a good way to describe it, because this play will be shown on highlight reels for years to come. It started when Coghlan entered the game as a pinch-hitter, drawing a one-out walk. Kevin Pillar then hit a ball to the right-field corner, and as Coghlan approached third, he was waved home by third-base coach Luis Rivera.
For a brief moment, that appeared to be an ill-advised decision, because Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty got to the ball in time and fired home.
The ball arrived well before Coghlan, but nobody expected the acrobatic routine that followed. Coghlan dove into the air, avoided the tag and, for a brief moment, flew above Molina. Coghlan was headed for a crash landing, but then, part of his body made contact with Molina's helmet, which caused enough of an angle that he was able to pull off a mid-air somersault.
If it looked like something out of a movie, that's because it was. In "Major League II," Willie Mays Hayes made a similar move, but that was a scripted Hollywood comedy and it likely took multiple takes to pull off. Coghlan had one opportunity, and he did not miss it.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of the play was tagging home. As Coghlan was twirling in the air, he also had the presence of mind to reach down with his left hand and touch the plate. It wasn't quite Vince Carter over France's Frederic Weis from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but it may have been baseball's version.
"After I had thrown it, my momentum kind of took me down," Piscotty said. "I didn't really see it well because the ball had gone by the cutoff man, and he was kind of in my way. I didn't really see it. I don't even know what happened."
Said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher: "Guys do what they have to do. Impressive play."
The reaction from Coghlan's teammates after the game showed how surreal the moment was. Players gathered around video screens to watch the play on a loop. Stroman commented on how that was something you could only do in video games. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons predicted people would be watching the clip for the next 100 years. The line of the night, though, belonged to starter Marco Estrada.
"When I saw Coghlan do a front flip over Molina, it was like I saw a unicorn or something," Estrada said. "It's just something that doesn't happen. You might not ever see that again. I'm glad I saw it. I'm going to remember that forever."
The play was just one moment from a memorable game. There were five lead changes, the surprise offense from Stroman and a never-say-die Cardinals team that saddled the winning team with two blown saves before their eventual loss. But none of it beat Coghlan's headfirst dive.
"I don't think you can top it, man," said Gibbons, a former catcher. "I don't remember ever seeing a better play than that."