MILWAUKEE -- If Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia wins the Gold Glove Award, which his coaches and teammates are already lobbying for, this may be the play that leads his highlight reel.
The situation: Two outs in the ninth inning at Miller Park on Wednesday night, the tying runner at second base for the Pirates. Brewers closer Corey Knebel was battling hard after Adam Frazier worked an eight-pitch at-bat for a single, and Josh Harrison coaxed nine more pitches before striking out. Frazier moved to second on a wild pitch, and John Jaso sent a grounder up the middle that Knebel thought would tie the game.
Then Arcia entered his peripheral vision.
"I think it was just instinct," Arcia said through translator Carlos Brizuela. "Instinct came out, and I went for it."
Arcia ranged far from his usual home at shortstop and crossed behind second base to scoop up the bouncing baseball. In one fluid motion, he spun counterclockwise and threw a one-hopper to first base. Eric Thames made the scoop, Jaso was out, and the Brewers celebrated a 4-3 win and one of the finest finishes in Miller Park's 17 seasons.
"I was yelling, 'Don't throw it!'" Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I mean, to myself, that's what I was thinking. That's his play, for sure. And it took a great play on Thames' end, too.
"That's a special play and a huge moment."
Counsell has played an inning or two at shortstop, so he knew that the logical play -- certainly the safe play -- might have been for Arcia to hold onto the ball. A throw to first, especially considering Arcia did so without actually seeing the base, risked Frazier scoring the tying run.
But the Brewers have encouraged Arcia to trust his instincts as he grows more comfortable in the Major Leagues, and his instinct told him to throw.
"Off the bat I was like, 'Oh, shh…" Thames said. "He made that throw, I was able to hang onto it, and it was an amazing play. Everybody is so fired up right now."
"He's doing what was advertised in the Minor Leagues," Counsell said. "It took a little bit, but I think we're starting to see it a little bit now, him getting comfortable with hitters and situations. [Brewers first-base coach] Carlos Subero has done an excellent job of feeding him more and more as we go here, of things to keep an eye on and to make instinctual."
It was at least the third defensive gem of the homestand for Arcia. In the 10th inning Friday, he went deep in the hole between shortstop and third base to take away a hit from the Padres' Hunter Renfroe, setting up Thames' walk-off home run.
Two days later, Arcia showed the same spin move he employed Wednesday, robbing Allen Cordoba. Subero, who managed against Arcia in the Venezuelan Winter League before managing him in the Brewers' Minor League system, calls that Arcia's signature move.
In terms of execution and context, however, Wednesday's final out was supreme.
"It's a really tough play in that situation," Arcia said. "You just try to make a perfect throw. You don't want the ball getting away and the run scoring, so you want to make as perfect a throw as you can.
"If I would have seen the base, I would have made a better throw. On those, it's just instinct. I just try to get rid of it as quick as I can and try to make as good a throw as I can."
Was it the best play he's made to date in the big leagues?
"Si, Arcia said, smiling. "Si."