BOSTON -- Indians outfielder Austin Jackson made a catch so great it brought Red Sox fans to their feet at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, flipping over the center-field wall to complete an incredible catch that robbed Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez of a home run and preserved, for
BOSTON -- Indians outfielder Austin Jackson made a catch so great it brought Red Sox fans to their feet at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, flipping over the center-field wall to complete an incredible catch that robbed Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez of a home run and preserved, for the moment, a two-run lead for the Tribe.
The Tribe's 12-10 loss to the Red Sox was difficult to swallow, but that did not stop the appreciation for Jackson's acrobatics from flowing from the stands and into the two respective clubhouses. Simply put, it was one of the greatest grabs witnessed by anyone who ventured to the corner of Van Ness Street and Yawkey Way on this night.
"That was one of the best catches I think I've ever seen," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I've been in the game a long time. That's a hard wall out there and a lot of guys run away from it. Austin went up and over. That was one of the most exciting plays I've seen in a long, long time."
Francona -- Boston's former manager -- is more than familiar with Fenway, too.
The play arrived in the fifth inning, when Ramirez drilled a pitch from Indians reliever Dan Otero to deep center, where the ball appeared destined for Boston's bullpen. Jackson sprinted to his left, closed in on the short wall in center and made a leaping catch. After snaring the ball from the sky, Jackson tumbled over the wall and disappeared from view.
"I just wanted to try to get back to the wall and try to read it," Jackson said.
Over in right field, Brandon Guyer did not think Jackson had a chance.
"I didn't think he would even catch it," said Guyer. "The ball just kept carrying, and I was like, 'Oh, man.'"
In the bullpen, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel also figured it was a home run.
"I was actually running to try to go catch it," Kimbrel said, "and then all of a sudden, he is flipping over our fence. You really didn't know how to react. It was such an amazing catch, you want to start clapping."
The crowd roared in disbelief when Jackson quickly stood with his glove raised to signal he made the grab.
As he fell over the wall, Jackson gripped the top of the padding with his right arm, allowing him to flip over onto his feet. Guyer hustled over to help, but Jackson jumped back into center field on his own, while they both laughed amidst the buzz from the crowd. Jackson said the key to making that kind of catch in Fenway Park is trying to grab the wall on the way over.
"It's just kind of a reaction, honestly," Jackson said. "You don't really think about it. You don't really practice it. In the moment, you see yourself going down head first, so you do whatever you can to break [the fall]."
Red Sox bullpen coach Dana Levangie was standing only a few steps away, giving him the best view of Jackson sprinting at him and winding up at his feet.
"Absolutely incredible," Levangie said. "He's playing the game fearless. He got up so high for that ball, and he was able to soften his landing by holding on to the wall.
"We've seen a few times going over that side of the wall, because it's short. It's a hard jump, because he didn't have any protection. But to hang on to it is insane. It's one of the best catches I've ever seen."
After the catch preserved Cleveland's 7-5 lead at the time, Ramirez's jaw dropped as he rounded first and Otero raised both arms skyward. The umpires initiated a crew-chief review to examine the catch, and seeing was believing. According to Statcast™, Jackson covered 97 feet to rob Ramirez, whose line drive had a hit probability of 73 percent.
The play brought a handful of others to mind.
It was just recently -- back on July 16 against the Yankees -- that Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. made a leaping catch on the side wall in Fenway Park's center-field triangle to rob slugger Aaron Judge of a home run. Two years ago, Mookie Betts made a similar catch in right field, nearly falling into the visitors' bullpen to rob Chris Davis of a homer for an amazing game-ending play.
Jackson's head-over-heels act was more reminiscent of a memorable play in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series. On a grand slam by former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, former Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter went over the bullpen wall -- his flip captured in the famous photo with the "bullpen cop" in the background.
Of course, Hunter did not make the catch on that play. So it was Jackson's catch that stood tall -- albeit with his feet in the air.
As it happened, Jackson was playing center for the Tigers that night. He was the first player to get to the right-field bullpen to make sure Hunter was OK.
Jackson said that while he was upside down on Tuesday, he actually started thinking back to Hunter's flip.
"It's crazy how much time you have to think about all of that stuff, even when it's happening that fast," Jackson said with a laugh. "As my feet are flipping over, for some reason, I was thinking about that same play that I saw with Torii. It's crazy how fast that goes by and how much time we have to think about stuff like that."
Jackson said the crowd's reaction was "awesome," given that he robbed a Red Sox home run.
Francona was not surprised by the response.
"They're good baseball fans," Francona said. "They certainly want their team to win, but they appreciate good baseball and that was about as good as it gets."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.