After ranging into shallow left, Tigers shortstop on other end of defensive gem
DETROIT -- All David Ortiz could do was smile and clap his hands. Max Scherzer laughed. The legend of Jose Iglesias' defensive mastery seems to grow with each game.
After making some of the best defensive plays in the Majors throughout the regular season, Iglesias, the Tigers' shortstop, added to his reputation by taking away a third-inning single from Ortiz with a remarkable over-the-shoulder grab in shallow left field.
"That was a tough play," Ortiz said. "But I've seen him do so many crazy plays, all I can do is clap."
As Ortiz led off the third -- before Boston sealed its 4-3 win in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series -- Iglesias shifted over to the right side of the infield, in the spot where a second baseman is positioned when looking to turn a double play.
Ortiz blooped the ball into shallow left, and Iglesias took off running like a wide receiver looking to catch a fade pass down the sideline. However, with the ball dropping, Iglesias swung his glove from left to right, and the ball ended up in his glove.
"I saw from right field, the angle and the trajectory, and it just didn't look like he was there," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He came out of nowhere and got under the ball. I thought that was more impressive than anything. Most people reach out [over their head]; he went under to get it. That young man is pretty impressive. In my 17 years, I haven't seen many players with gloves like that."
Did Iglesias even think he'd make the play?
"No chance," Iglesias said. "I just sprinted as hard as I could, and when I saw the ball over there, I just threw my glove and I was able to catch it."
When Dave Dombrowski acquired Iglesias from Boston before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this season, scouts told the Tigers' general manager he would see plays that he's never seen before. Others compared Iglesias' glove to that of Omar Vizquel.
Iglesias has lived up to his billing.
In the fourth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball to second base with a runner on first. Tigers second baseman Omar Infante tossed the ball to Iglesias, and the shortstop showed off his arm to get the speedy Ellsbury at first, completing an inning-ending double play.
To end the eighth, Iglesias had to stride into the middle of the left field to make a catch.
"This dude was all over the place today," Hunter said. "We're excited to have him over here. He came over from Boston, and he's making those plays. He's having fun -- it looks like he's a big kid out there. [Miguel Cabrera's] hurt and Jhonny [Peralta's] not really a left fielder, and this guy is covering it for everybody."
While Iglesias has impressed with his glove, he's still improving in the batter's box. He surpassed expectations by hitting .303 across 109 regular-season games with the Tigers and Red Sox.
Iglesias singled in an eight-pitch at-bat to lead off the bottom of the seventh before eventually scoring and cutting Detroit's deficit to one run.
Iglesias nearly created more offense when he tried to bunt for a single with a runner on first in the fifth inning. Instead, he learned what it's like to be on the other end of a defensive gem when Boston's starter, Jon Lester, fumbled the ball before flipping it with his glove to the first baseman to beat Iglesias by a half-step.
Even against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, who has held hitters to a .148 batting average in the postseason, Iglesias was able to foul off four pitches before popping out to end the game.
"I feel good," Iglesias said. "Unfortunately, I couldn't get it done, but I feel like I battled the whole time."
Iglesias may not have been able to come through in Game 5, but he's made observers confident that he will find ways to contribute throughout his career. He's under contract through the 2018 season and will have countless more opportunities to impress the baseball world with his glove.