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Straight steal of home catches pitcher napping

@MandyBell02
June 15, 2019

DETROIT -- It’s not every day that you see a player make a straight steal of home. It’s even more rare that a player makes that daring attempt against a right-handed pitcher, who has the best view in the house of the runner on third. Leonys Martin wasn’t intimidated. With

DETROIT -- It’s not every day that you see a player make a straight steal of home. It’s even more rare that a player makes that daring attempt against a right-handed pitcher, who has the best view in the house of the runner on third.

Leonys Martin wasn’t intimidated.

With the Indians leading 3-2, Martin led off the top of the eighth with a double, before tagging up and taking third base on Francisco Lindor’s flyout to left field. That’s when he started observing Tigers right-hander Victor Alcantara’s every move.

Martin noticed that Alcantara was keeping his head down after each pitch, so he decided to test the waters. After the second pitch of Carlos Santana’s at-bat, Martin faked a steal attempt and realized that he had a good shot of making something happen.

“I mean Leonys faked, and you could tell the kid didn’t see him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

“It just came to my mind that it was a good opportunity to steal that base,” Martin said. “Then I wasn’t afraid, man. I got a huge lead and I did. … First time ever.”

Martin read the situation perfectly. Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo was playing off the bag, allowing Martin to get a large lead. Alcantara stepped on the rubber and his eyes never left the ground beneath him. He bent down to start his motion, and that’s when Martin broke.

"Every time I finish my windup, I just look down,” Alcantara said through an interpreter. “That's what he noticed, that it was a regular thing for me. He took advantage of that."

"That's a Little League play,” Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle, who stepped in for manager Ron Gardenhire after he was ejected earlier in the game, said. “I mean, for a right-handed pitcher to allow a runner that's directly right in front of you [to score], and then our third baseman not going over toward the bag as Leonys was walking down the line, that's Little League stuff. That's what you get when youth starts to show up on plays like that."

Martin made the mad dash for home and catcher John Hicks was screaming for Alcantara to look up and notice what was happening. At the last second, he stepped off the rubber and threw home, but Martin’s hand hit Hicks’ glove as he dove across the plate, knocking the ball away.

"I saw Leo way down the line. That's why the pitch before, I kind of faked like we were going to throw behind him,” Hicks said. “But when Victor came set, I saw him take off. I was yelling with everything I have to step off. The ball got there right as he did, and when I went to tag him, he knocked it out of my glove."

Was that the fastest Martin has ever run in his life?

“Probably,” he said with a big laugh.

In all of Francona’s time around the game, he said he’s only witnessed one other straight steal of home plate, when Jacoby Ellsbury did so in 2009 with the Red Sox. It was the first time that it happened with an Indians player since Grady Sizemore stole home on Aug. 26, 2005.

“I remember telling Ellsbury, ‘Hey good play, you better always be safe,’” Francona said. “But I thought Leonys was gonna be safe. It wasn’t like he was out there freelancing. He was gonna be safe. … I mean, that’s a heck of a run for us right there.”

"Just trying to do everything right to get what we want, to make that play right,” Martin said. “I know it wasn’t a good idea if I was out, but I was safe.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.