Manuel MarGOAT! Insane catch and huge HR

October 13th, 2020

It was the show early in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Monday at Petco Park in San Diego, and the outfielder gave the Astros a front-row seat as the Rays earned a 4-2 win and took a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Margot might not be the ALCS hero you would expect, which is exactly what makes him the perfect Game 2 hero for the Rays. Throughout its postseason run, this deep Tampa Bay club has passed the torch to a new star each game, with Monday being Margot’s turn. After hitting just one home run in 159 regular-season plate appearances, Margot homered in the first inning for his third of the postseason in just his 22nd trip to the plate.

One of the runners Margot drove in, , has taken several turns as the Rays’ star this postseason, including with a game-tying home run in Game 1 of this series on Sunday night. In Tampa Bay’s AL Division Series-clinching Game 5 on Friday night, it was who leapt from anonymity to stardom with one swing of the bat. In their Game 3 win prior to that, and powered the offense with a home run and three RBIs apiece. It’s this collective effort that makes the Rays such an effective team from game to game.

Margot’s first act Monday came when he broke the game open with a three-run blast to center field off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. The 406-foot home run came with two outs in the inning after the red-hot Arozarena kept the frame alive with a single and Ji-Man Choi reached on an error.

It also came as the result of manager Kevin Cash bumping Margot up to fifth in the batting order after he hit seventh in the Rays’ 2-1 win in Game 1, a vote of confidence that the 26-year-old has earned with a strong postseason.

“He came up big for us in the Wild Card Series and the ALDS with some big home runs. He’s just a good player,” Cash said prior to Game 2. “You can bet on contact. Last night was tough, certainly, for all of our hitters with the way [Framber] Valdez threw, but Manny is such a complete player, and I like to have him out there.”

Margot wasn’t done, though, and that home run might not even lead his personal highlight reel.

With Astros runners on second and third with two outs and George Springer at the plate in the very next inning, threatening to cut into the lead the Rays had just created, Margot made one of the most outstanding catches of the season.

Springer flared a high fly ball down the right-field line that drifted into foul territory, forcing Margot to cover 102 feet to reach the wall, which is roughly as tall as the 5-foot-11 outfielder. Just when it looked like the ball would simply slice into the bleachers, Margot launched into the air, making the catch at the peak of his jump before crashing into the top of the wall and tumbling out of sight on the other side.

“I hope they make a T-shirt out of that,” said shortstop . “It would be kind of dope. … That was unbelievable. Incredible, man.”

Cash said the home run was his favorite of the two plays, because it gave the Rays the lead. Margot agreed, but he had a different reason. Home runs don’t hurt as much as falling off the top of a wall.

“Approaching it, you don’t really realize how high it is, but it gets a little lower once you go over the wall,” Margot said through a translator. “Once I actually started to flip and realized it was a little bit more of a drop, that’s when I kind of got a little scared.”

It wasn’t a soft fall for Margot, either, as there’s a gap between that wall in foul territory and where Petco Park’s seating begins. Margot fell the full height of that wall down to the ground and was in some pain afterwards, but he stayed in the game to finish what he had started.

“Just to have the ability to know where you’re at and the effort to say, ‘Forget it, I’m going to hit something, but I’m going in,’ and to still hang on to the ball -- it’s pretty impressive,” Cash said.

If there’s any player in this series who knows the ins and outs of Petco Park, though, it’s Margot, who spent four seasons with the Padres. Margot was primarily a center fielder with San Diego, starting full-time at the position for his last three years, but he was still able to keep track of that wall in right and time his jump perfectly.

Even before Margot had made his Major League debut in late 2016, he announced himself to the baseball world with an incredible catch in the Futures Game in San Diego that July, robbing a home run from Carson Kelly. Margot was MLB Pipeline’s No. 26 prospect in the league at that point -- and No. 2 in the Padres’ system -- so it could be said that he has long been on the path to making big plays at Petco Park in October.