The Goins gets tough on grab, walk-off
Game-winning HR latest sign of reworked swing for infielder
TORONTO -- Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins has never been known for his production with the bat, but he made plenty of noise with it Tuesday night, hitting a 10th-inning walk-off homer against the Indians.
Goins secured a 5-3 victory by lifting a hanging slider and sending it into the second deck in right field. It was homer No. 5 on the season for Goins, and while his glove will always be what makes the middle infielder stand out, he seems to be gaining more confidence at the plate with each passing day.
Goins' contributions Tuesday weren't limited to his hitting, as he also made yet another fantastic defensive play. In the top of the second, Lonnie Chisenhall hit a high popup down the right-field line that was drifting into foul territory.
It was too long of a run for right fielder Jose Bautista to make a play on, but Goins tracked it the whole way. He was able to pull off a sliding over-the-shoulder catch to record the out, and in one fluid motion, threw the ball back into the infield to keep a runner on first base from advancing.
According to Statcast™, Goins covered 124.6 feet in making the catch with a route efficiency of 99.56 percent. That is the highest route efficiency this season for an infielder on a catch in which the player traveled more than 100 feet.
"That was a long way, but just was glad to catch it and help the pitching staff out as much as I can," Goins said. "At first I thought I was going to have to dive forward and then once it kept coming down, it kind of hung up a bit and I slid. But, yeah, I thought I had a chance off the bat."
The 27-year-old might have the reputation of being a light hitter, but he has been anything but lately. Goins is riding an 11-game hitting streak, and dating back to when he became an everyday player on July 26, he is batting .287 with an impressive .802 OPS.
"It's unbelievable, I can't even put it into words," Goins said of the walk-off two-run homer. "It's the best feeling in my career so far. ... You know what? I'd be lying if I didn't say I blacked out. I don't even know what happened, honestly. An unbelievable feeling and something I'll remember."
Goins has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more since he became the starting second baseman when rookie Devon Travis hit the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. The highlight-reel defense was expected, but the offense certainly wasn't after he had a .264 on-base percentage in 2013 followed by a .209 mark in 2014.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the game that he felt a lot of the recent success was because of some changes Goins made to his mechanics. Gibbons believes Goins has a shorter swing than he did earlier in his career and that has increased his ability to make contact. It's something the Blue Jays experimented with before, but it never really worked out, at least not until recently.
"To be honest, I thought his swing was a little bit long early on," Gibbons said. "If you have a big swing, you really have to have discipline. If you don't, you're chasing all of the time. You have to get started earlier because you got a longer swing.
"He tried some adjustments with that early in the  season, didn't work right away and he abandoned it. This year, couple months in, he and [hitting coach] Brook [Jacoby] started doing that a little bit to flatten it out, and it has paid dividends. He's always held his own and hit pretty good down in the Minor Leagues, now he's getting the at-bats and that's a big part of it, too."