Analyzing every angle of Harris ll's catch, game-ending double play

October 11th, 2023

We're going to be talking about 's catch for a long time. 

The second-year center fielder made the play of the postseason, and it might be the play that saves the Braves' season.

Harris' dazzling catch at the right-center-field wall in the ninth inning Monday night in Atlanta started a game-ending double play to beat the Phillies and even the National League Division Series at 1. It might be one of the greatest playoff game-ending web gems ever. 

"I played it through my head before and just knew I wasn't trying to let anything drop," Harris said. "Just trying to get to anything."

Michael Harris II to Austin Riley to Matt Olson. The first 8-5-3 double play in postseason history -- and the first time a postseason game has ended on a double play involving an outfielder.

From the catch itself, to Harris' alert throw back to the infield as Bryce Harper rounded second base expecting an extra-base hit, to 's equally heads-up play to back up the throw and fire to first for the final out, it was an incredible sequence to watch.

And we can use Statcast's 3D tracking to break down the play from every angle.

Here's how it went down.

Part 1: The catch
The Braves had just rallied to take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on Riley's go-ahead two-run homer. But Harper walked against A.J. Minter to start the ninth, and after a J.T. Realmuto flyout vs. closer Raisel Iglesias, Nick Castellanos stepped to the plate with one out.

"I was thinking double play," Braves legend Dale Murphy, who was in attendance at Truist Park, told's Mark Bowman afterward. "I just wasn’t thinking double play that way."

Castellanos crushed a 97 mph fastball from Iglesias 392 feet to the fence in right-center field. And Harris got on his horse.

"I knew I hit it hard. So you’re just hoping," Castellanos said. "I was just saying in my head, like: 'Go, go, go.' He made a hell of a catch."

Harris had 5.4 seconds to cover the 92 feet back to the wall. That gave him a catch probability of just 45%, per Statcast. And then he had to actually jump into the wall to make the catch.

Harris did. Amazingly, he did. The 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner is an excellent center fielder -- he was worth +6 Outs Above Average this season, and he's made 16 catches in his young career with a catch probability of 50% or lower. But this went above and beyond.

"I knew once I went back, I wasn't stopping," Harris said. "I was going to do anything I could to get a glove on it. And if my body had to go down because of that, I would've done that."

"I didn't know if he was going to run out of room," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "And after he caught it, you go hoarse yelling."

Two outs. But the play was just getting started.

Part 2: Harper's baserunning
As Castellanos' drive carried toward the wall, Harper took off running. As Harris approached the fence, Harper rounded second base. If Harris didn't make a sensational catch, the Phillies star would have likely scored the game-tying run.

But Harris did make the sensational catch. And Harper was caught on the wrong side of the bag. That left him a long way to go to get back to first base.

"I probably shouldn’t have gone over second base," Harper said. "But I made a decision and I’ll live with that."

Harper had to slam on the brakes as Harris came up with the ball, and that change of momentum cost him an extra split second. That made all the difference for the Braves.

"Usually you don't pass the base," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "You stay in front of it, make sure it's not caught. But [Harper] thought the ball was clearly over [Harris'] head, didn't think he was going to catch it. And Harris made a heck of a play. Unbelievable."

Harris didn't actually realize that Harper had rounded second. So he launched a throw back in toward the second-base bag, instead of on a line toward first, where shortstop Orlando Arcia was stationed in the outfield grass as the cutoff man.  

Harris' throw bounded past second baseman Ozzie Albies, who was positioned closer to the base. But because Harper had so long to go, it gave Riley enough time to scoop up the bouncing ball and throw to first baseman Matt Olson in time. Game over.  

"[I was] just taking a chance," Harper said. "Michael made a great play. He doubled me up. Tough way to end it."

Part 3: Riley's backup
Riley's role in the game-ending play deserves special mention. He put himself in the right position to complete the double play on Harper.

"It looked like it was going to be a ball in the gap. Harper was trying to be aggressive in a one-run ballgame," Riley said. "It was just about backing up the play and being in the right place at the right time."

Watch how Riley moves through the course of the play. At first, he's staying home at third base, watching Harris race back to the wall. As Harris makes the catch, Harper is right in Riley's sightline, burning around second base.

So Riley starts frantically signaling to throw the ball to first. But he also starts moving toward second base in the process. And that puts him in the perfect spot to back up Harris' throw when it gets by Albies.

"I think the only reason I was in the position that I was because I was screaming 'One!,' and just momentum just kept pulling me that way," Riley said. "I was just screaming 'One, one, one!' as loud as I could and just trying to read -- see where the ball was going. I think it was just one of those things where: Right place, right time."

With Harper speeding back toward first base -- and Harris anxiously looking on, afraid he'd given Harper time to get back -- Riley got rid of a 79.2 mph throw to Olson in just 0.67 seconds. It was just in time to nab Harper and cap off the Braves' dramatic comeback win.

"I guess Riley was right there in the right spot to make the throw," Harris said. "He made an incredible throw."