Never mind launch angles. And spin rates. And shifts. Last night, baseball fans witnessed something that has not been talked about in baseball for a long, long time.
Lost in the three-outcome de-evolution of the game has been any mention or even concern with fundamentals.
Honestly, when was the last time you heard an announcer utter those words in a positive way rather than pine for the days when baseball was played the right way?
Players and writers were raving about the relay throw in the top of the fourth inning that nailed Astros Jose Altuve at the plate in Game 4 of the Division Series. Maybe it was less about how fundamentally perfect the play and more about how rare fundamentals are anymore in today’s game.
It came at a critical time. The Astros were, shockingly, down 3-0—with the invincible Jusin Verlander—trying to break through and get some momentum going.
Houston’s all-everything rookie Yordan Alverez is batting. He drives the ball to the deepest part of centerfield. Unfortunately for him, that’s where the best defensive centerfielder in baseball happens to have his office.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier plays the ball perfectly off the wall, makes the perfect throw to cut-off man Willie Adames, who happens to be perfectly positioned. He catches it the right way, turns, and executes the perfect relay throw to the perfect spot just on the third-base side of the plate for Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud to make the catch and let his glove nail the speedy Altuve trying to score.
There were a lot of perfects in that last sentence. There needed to be.
According to mlb.com’s Mike Petriello, the entire play took 10.4 seconds to execute, from the moment Alvarez hit it to the moment d’Arnaud made the tag. And it took exactly five seconds from the moment Kiermaier touched the ball to the moment d’Arnaud touched Altuve.
The fact that Altuve didn’t question the call proved just how wonderful the play was.
In a year when home runs were a dime a dozen, and strikeouts even cheaper, it was comforting to see the beauty of baseball still exists somewhere hidden in all of that sludge.
In those 10.4 seconds of perfection, Tampa Bay took one major step toward one of the biggest upsets in baseball history.
All they have to do is play perfect baseball one more game.
Oh yeah, today there are two Game 5s, with all four teams throwing their respective aces.
Thank you, baseball.
Jack Flaherty vs. Mike Foltynewicz
Game time: 4:02 on TBS
Stephen Strasburg vs. Walker Buehler
Game time: 7:37 on TBS