Score from first on infield single? Here's how

May 6th, 2021

NEW YORK -- rounded second base and saw daylight, realizing that the Astros’ shifted infield had left third base unprotected. Then he spotted Houston catcher Martín Maldonado lumbering up the line toward, and the Yankees’ shortstop determined that his daring dash would end at home plate.

In what manager Aaron Boone called “an incredibly heads-up play,” Torres scored from first base on Aaron Hicks’ infield single, helping the Yankees trim their eighth-inning deficit on Thursday. Though it didn’t save the Yanks from a 7-4 defeat, they were still buzzing about the play after the game.

“In that moment, I knew no one was at home plate,” Torres said. “I just kept running. I believed Maldonado couldn’t run back to home plate, so I just took advantage of the opportunity.”

Torres opened the eighth inning with a single to right field off reliever Ryan Pressly and said he had a conversation with Yankees first-base coach Reggie Willits, who pointed out Houston’s aggressive shift to the right side on Hicks. Those plays are discussed frequently in-house during Spring Training and the regular season.

“He always tells me to check the defense,” Torres said.

The play developed as Hicks smoked a ground ball that second baseman Jose Altuve could not handle for an infield hit, and as Torres approached second base, he saw third baseman Alex Bregman there.

Torres expected Maldonado to cover third base, with Pressly at home plate, but Pressly was still standing near the mound. Astros manager Dusty Baker said it was actually first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s responsibility to cover home plate in that situation.

“[Maldonado] was supposed to be covering third, but Gleyber can run,” Baker said. “Maldy was running as fast as he could to cover third, and then he had to retreat when he saw Gleyber retreating for home. With these unorthodox defenses, which I’m not crazy about, you’re going to see plays like this -- especially from heads-up guys that can run.”

With that, Torres took off, an unintentional homage to Johnny Damon’s baserunning exploits in the 2009 World Series, when the speedster stole second and popped up without hesitation to take third base in Game 4 at Philadelphia. Boone said that Torres’ familiarity with frequent shifts helped the play.

“As an infielder, he's aware of shifts and different predicaments you can get yourself in on some different balls,” Boone said. “I saw him racing around second, and I'm like, ‘Oh, yeah? OK!’ It was really heads-up by Gleyber.”

It was only later, Torres said, that he realized third-base coach Phil Nevin had attempted to stop him at third.

“I just saw the video,” Torres said. “I feel like in that situation, it’s just an exciting moment. There was too much going on.”