Diving stop thwarts rally in 4th inning of ALCS Game 1 win
By Ben Weinrib
CLEVELAND -- Indians starter Corey Kluber extended his playoff scoreless streak to 13 1/3 innings in part thanks to his team's excellent defense. And no moment was bigger in Friday's 2-0 win over the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field than second baseman Jason Kipnis' highlight-reel play.
With a runner on first with one down in the fourth, Toronto appeared ready to strike first when center fielder Kevin Pillar struck a hard chopper to the right side. But with a quick jump, a dive, a spin and a throw, Cleveland second baseman Kipnis squashed the rally before it could begin en route to a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS in Canada.
Instead of having runners on the corners with one down and the leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera on deck, Kluber was able to escape the inning without trouble by coaxing a flyout out of Devon Travis.
The athletic acrobatics of Kipnis' play were incredible enough, but perhaps the most amazing part was his instincts. Statcast™ data showed that Kipnis' first step came 0.36 seconds before Pillar put the ball in play.
"There's scouting reports and everything else," Kipnis said. "I got a good jump on it, and when you get to two strikes with certain pitches, we're looking in and seeing which pitch is coming. So I know that if it's a fastball away, he's probably not going to hit it in the hole to shortstop, so I'm going to be ready to go where he is going to go. We have to anticipate something where the percentages say they go. It's not always going to go there, but like I said, I was leaning that way and got a good jump on it."
Despite going to the ground, Kipnis was able to throw Pillar out by a half-step by putting a little extra on the ball. His 74.7 mph throw came in faster than his average of 71.7 mph on competitive throws, according to Statcast™.
"He made a good play," Pillar said. "That's part of the game. That's why he's an All-Star. He plays both ways."
Pillar didn't help his case by taking 4.35 seconds to reach first, which was more than a half second slower than his average home-to-first time during the regular season, according to Statcast™.
"You feel if you hit that ball in April, maybe you're safe." Pillar said. "We're almost 200 games in, and I don't get down the line the way I could [then]. It wasn't enough."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.