BALTIMORE -- Steve Pearce has spent most of the season in left field, but he saved his best catch of the year for a rare start at first.Pearce jumped into the stands during the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday night to make a spectacular grab on a foul
BALTIMORE -- Steve Pearce has spent most of the season in left field, but he saved his best catch of the year for a rare start at first.
Pearce jumped into the stands during the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday night to make a spectacular grab on a foul popup from Jonathan Schoop. It wasn't enough to avoid a 1-0 loss to the Orioles in 13 innings, but it will be all over the highlight reels for days to come.
The 34-year-old Pearce was making just his third start of the season at first base, and all of those games have come in the last week with Justin Smoak out of the lineup because of a sore right calf. Pearce hasn't had many reps there, but it's his natural position and it showed on Friday.
"Timing the ball," Pearce said, when asked about what the most difficult aspect of the play was. "It was up and fading. I was able to get to my spot early and time it, that's really it. Just finding it and being able to time it. I got a good read on it."
Pearce's grab played a big role in the Blue Jays being able to keep the game scoreless, but later in the night he fell victim to a highlight-reel play on the other side of the field. In the top of the 13th inning, Pearce came to the plate with the potential go-ahead run on second base and two outs. He unloaded on a 95-mph fastball from Jimmy Yacabonis and sent a screaming line drive to left field.
According to Statcast™, the ball left Pearce's bat at 106.9 mph and had a hit probability of 69 percent. As soon as the ball left Pearce's bat, the Blue Jays thought they finally had a lead that was more than four hours in the making, but instead Trey Mancini took several steps and made a leaping over-the-shoulder grab to end the frame.
The look on Pearce's face after the play said it all. His jaw dropped, he grabbed his helmet with both hands and fired it to the ground. The joy of apparent victory and the agony of defeat all within the span of a few seconds.
"You have to make a quick read," Mancini said. "I took one really quick jab to my left, but then I realized he top-spun it a little bit, so I switched to my right and just went back and tried to lay out and use every fiber of my body to stretch out and get it and luckily I barely got enough glove on it."
Pearce likely won't stay at first base much longer with Smoak expected to return to the starting lineup on Saturday but he'll take one special grab to take with him back to left field. The catch was one of several incredible plays made by both sides during Friday night's pitchers' duel, which matched the longest shutout victory by any team this season.
In addition the plays by Mancini and Pearce, there also was a running grab in right by Toronto rookie Teoscar Hernandez and a crucial throw home by Schoop that got a diving Kevin Pillar in the top of the ninth inning. The Blue Jays might not be in contention but this will still go down as one of the best games of the year.
"He'll be on the highlight reel," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Pearce. "There will be a lot of highlight plays from that game tonight."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.