ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Pillar made a household name for himself last season with a series of spectacular catches. In 2016, all it took was two games for his first must-see moment of the year.Toronto was clinging to a two-run lead over Tampa Bay in the seventh inning of the
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Pillar made a household name for himself last season with a series of spectacular catches. In 2016, all it took was two games for his first must-see moment of the year.
Toronto was clinging to a two-run lead over Tampa Bay in the seventh inning of the Blue Jays' eventual 5-3 win when Steve Pearce hit a deep fly ball to the gap in left-centre. Pillar got a quick read on the ball and made a leaping off-balance catch before crashing head-first into the wall.
Despite the violent impact, Pillar managed to hang onto the ball for the first out of the inning. He remained on the ground for a brief period of time before being helped to his feet by left fielder Michael Saunders, and he remained in the game.
"Right when I took my last step, I knew it was going to be a tough play, and I knew diving was out of the question because the wall was there," Pillar said. "Athleticism, body awareness took over. I was able to tuck in my head at just the right time. I'm happy to be alive."
According to Statcast™, Pillar covered 92 feet in the outfield on this play after topping 90 feet nine times last season. His route efficiency was an impressive 97.298 percent, and he took his first step 0.334 seconds after Pearce made contact. His top speed reached 19.691 mph, and he covered 7.491 metres per square second.
The range that Pillar displayed was impressive, but what made this catch possible was the fearless approach he took to get the ball. Pillar never hesitates to lay his body on the line to make a grab, and at some point that may cause issues with injuries, but not on Monday.
"Does it get any better than that?" manager John Gibbons asked. "I have to be honest, I've seen it before. It doesn't really doesn't surprise me, he's that good."
The Blue Jays saw this plenty of times when Pillar made Superman- and Spiderman-like catches during the 2015 season. This one likely ranks below each of those, but some in the clubhouse think it's the best.
"That's as good of a play as I've ever seen," catcher Josh Thole said. "That was unbelievable, and to do it this early in the season ... I imagine that will take a toll on his body, but it was a huge out for us, especially late in the ballgame."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.