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Heredia's throw 'play of the game' for Mariners

Thriving on defense, outfielder helps thwart Astros' potential rally in 8th
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Despite having his playing time reduced considerably by the return of Mitch Haniger in recent weeks, Guillermo Heredia continues to put up some of the top outfield defensive metrics in baseball in his limited time.

And the rookie from Cuba again showed why in a 4-1 win over the Astros on Wednesday, when he quickly fielded a line drive off the left-field wall by Jose Altuve, turned and threw out George Springer trying to advance from first to third, helping to thwart the Astros' attempted eighth-inning revival against Seattle reliever Nick Vincent.

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HOUSTON -- Despite having his playing time reduced considerably by the return of Mitch Haniger in recent weeks, Guillermo Heredia continues to put up some of the top outfield defensive metrics in baseball in his limited time.

And the rookie from Cuba again showed why in a 4-1 win over the Astros on Wednesday, when he quickly fielded a line drive off the left-field wall by Jose Altuve, turned and threw out George Springer trying to advance from first to third, helping to thwart the Astros' attempted eighth-inning revival against Seattle reliever Nick Vincent.

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"It was more reaction than it was a play," Heredia said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "In that sort of situation, you just have to react, especially off that wall, you take what you can get and you have to make that play."

Heredia has made stronger throws. His hardest on any play this year is 95.7 mph, per Statcast™, and he hit 95.3 mph on May 27 at Boston to get Hanley Ramirez at the plate. This one registered 91.8 mph, as he had to grab the ball and fire quickly without setting himself for a big throw.

"Play of the game," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "He has a tremendous throwing arm, not just the velocity -- a lot of guys in this league can throw it hard from the outfield -- but he's so accurate, and that really is a separator."

Heredia played very well during the six weeks Haniger spent on the disabled list with a strained oblique, but he has seen his time limited since Haniger's return five weeks ago. But Heredia continued to fill in well when given a chance -- primarily against left-handed starters -- and stepped up big again with Haniger out the past four games with a finger injury.

"Heredia played really well when he was getting more regular time in the first half," Servais said. "We've tried to figure out ways to keep him going in the second half when you don't see a ton of left-handers. But situations come up, guys get dinged up and I'm very comfortable firing him out there.

"He's playing really good defense. It's unbelievable. He had one ball the other night when he kind of got caught in that little corner and it hit off his glove -- that's the first time I've seen a ball actually hit his glove and not catch it in the two years we've had him. He's really gifted outfield-wise. He can throw, gets the jumps and [has the] ability to close on balls. He's one of the best."

The 26-year-old also doubled and scored a key run in the sixth and has put up a solid .269/.331/.357 line with five homers in 227 at-bats. So while his role has been limited of late, getting back into some regular time this week has been beneficial.

Video: SEA@HOU: Cano brings in Heredia on a fielder's choice

"That helps out," he said. "What helps even more is the support of my teammates and being able to talk to the veteran players like Robinson Cano. They keep telling me to be prepared for my opportunity, and when that opportunity does come, to be able to take advantage of it."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Guillermo Heredia