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Let's bounce: Hedges' homer gets glove assist

Padres catcher also makes airborne throw for out
@AJCassavell
April 24, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Austin Hedges hit the longest homer of his career earlier this month in Arizona. He hit the highest-exit-velo homer of his career on Sunday against Cincinnati. On Tuesday night, in the Padres' 6-3 victory, Hedges hit the strangest homer of his career -- with a bit of

SAN DIEGO -- Austin Hedges hit the longest homer of his career earlier this month in Arizona. He hit the highest-exit-velo homer of his career on Sunday against Cincinnati.

On Tuesday night, in the Padres' 6-3 victory, Hedges hit the strangest homer of his career -- with a bit of assistance from Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith.

With San Diego leading, 4-2, in the sixth, Hedges crushed a Cory Gearrin slider to straightaway center field. It appeared destined to fall a few feet short of a home run, and Smith raced to the warning track.

"I didn't know if it was going to get out, but I thought it had a chance to get over his head," Hedges said later.

Smith leapt as he attempted to make an acrobatic catch. Instead, the ball caromed off his glove and over the wall. Smith collided with the fence and fell to the ground, where he sat for a moment in pure disbelief.

"It caught me in the palm," Smith said. "It just kind of toilet-bowled out of there. Not sure what you can do about that."

Hedges could only break out into a smile as he rounded the bases, having given the Padres a 6-2 lead.

"I hit it about as good as I possibly could," Hedges said. "I guess it was good enough. ... Obviously, if he doesn't touch it, it's halfway up the wall."

It was Hedges' fourth home run of the season, and it came only a few innings after he'd made one of his most spectacular defensive plays, robbing Smith of an infield single.

Even though Hedges is widely regarded as one of the sport's best defensive catchers, his wizardry generally goes unnoticed behind the plate. But amid the top-tier game calling and pitch framing, every now and then Hedges makes an all-world defensive gem.

Smith hit a chopper in front of the plate. Hedges sprung from his crouch, and he grabbed the ball with his bare hand before uncorking an absurd airborne toss to first base.

"I don't think I get him out any other way," Hedges said, citing Smith's speed. "If I set my feet, he's safe."

"It's a special play," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I can't imagine trying to throw a ball from that body angle."

Hedges pushed off with his left foot, and he went horizontal to get himself leverage. Then he released the baseball while in mid-air. His throw, as it usually is, was right on the money.

"I didn't even know I jumped like that," Hedges said. "I just tried to get rid of it as quick as possible. I went and saw the replay, and it was a little more athletic than I thought it was."

Four innings later, Smith got a chance for revenge. He even covered a ton of ground to reach Hedges' deep fly ball in the first place.

"I had a good feel of where the wall was," Smith said. "I saw the ball. I timed it well. I just didn’t complete the play."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.