8 great moments of defensive improvisation

Let's reward infield creativity

August 13th, 2020

Rio Ruiz pulled off another moment of wild 2020 Orioles Magic on Wednesday night. One evening after the surprising O's defeated the Phillies thanks to a 10th-inning inside-the-park home run, Ruiz kept the Orioles' slim one-run lead intact thanks to his diving, stumbling, hopeful play.

The play looks like a blooper. Ruiz dives to make the grab on Andrew McCutchen's ground ball, but then seems to fall down and lose the ball when he tries to make the throw.

Instead, it's a brilliant piece of -- essentially -- bocce ball, as Ruiz manages to roll the baseball to second to end the inning. Just unreal:

In honor of Ruiz's play, we thought we should look back at some of the most unexpected infield assists in baseball, when players had to get creative to make the play.

1. Brandon Drury's stumbling flip

While Ruiz's play looks about as intentional as can be given the circumstances, then-D-backs infielder Drury accomplished the same thing while basically starring in a Benny Hill sketch.

This is rarely what you want to look like when a play is over, but hey, whatever works.

2. Asdrúbal Cabrera goes behind the back

It's unfair how easy Cabrera made this look. The ball bounced off Joe Smith's glove, hopped over the mound -- picking up some more funky spin on the way -- and Cabrera started a behind-the-back double play as if that's how the team drew it up.

Meanwhile, I sometimes forget to put the coffee pot back into the machine, so my counter winds up flooded. Baseball players are just unreal.

3. Ronnie Belliard's glove flip

While Cabrera was able to make the play and throw with his bare hand, that didn't happen for the Nationals' Belliard. The Reds' Jeff Keppinger smashed a grounder up the middle and pitcher Saul Rivera kicked the ball toward where Belliard was standing to start the play.

Had he not moved, this would be as routine as it gets and none of us would be watching it. Instead, Belliard was racing up the middle to make the play if the ball got past Rivera, so instead had to reverse course and skid to a stop. The little spin move Belliard adds at the end is just the icing on this defensive cake.

4. Mark Buehrle goes between the legs

The most famous moment of defensive wizardry by a pitcher in history. On Opening Day 2010, Buehrle kicked at Lou Marson's ball and then hustled after it as it went into foul territory down the first-base line. Rather than give up on the play, he showed off some serious skills as he flicked the ball between his legs to get the out.

Hawk Harrelson was known for getting a little overexcited, but this one was definitely worth it.

5. Bartolo Colón also goes behind the back

Sure, it's similar to Buehrle's play and scores a little lower on the difficulty meter, but it's a Colón highlight -- which makes us all happy. Plus, he's using the same kind of energy you would when making a nice stop in your local rec softball game, which really makes this a delight.

6. The glove toss

Every now and then, baseball gloves are a little too good at their job and won't release the ball once it's nestled safely inside.

While it happens occasionally (Red Sox first baseman Michael Chavis had the ball stuck in his glove on Wednesday night, costing the team a run), the most famous moment belongs to Orlando Hernández when he did an overhand throw of his glove to first base for the out.

7. Scooter Gennett goes full extension

The Indians' José Ramírez surely thought he had a single when Joey Votto was unable to corral it and instead sent it bouncing back toward the middle of the field. But Gennett was there to leap and make the barehanded grab and throw just in time for the out.

The Indians reviewed the play, but it was upheld -- probably because it would have been cruel to take away such a highlight reel play from Scooter. (Note: This is not actually how the umpires review plays, though it would be cool if they did give out style points.)

8. "The Flip"

You really didn't think we'd leave Derek Jeter off the list, did you? In fact, I think it's an actual legal requirement when making a list like this that we include the play.

Sure, you may have watched this 8,000 times, but what's one more for good measure?

Bonus: Paul O'Neill's soccer career

Finally, we'll give you a bonus one. Sure, O'Neill didn't get the out -- and he's in the outfield to boot (not sorry for the pun) -- but this might be the most famous example of a fielder figuring something out on the fly.

When the Phillies saw that O'Neill was unable to corral the ball, the Phillies' Steve Jeltz was set to round third and score. But O'Neill got creative and instead kicked the ball to first base to hold the runner. Had he whiffed on the kick like Charlie Brown, this would have gone down as one of the goofiest bloopers in history. Those are high stakes.