Zimmer zooms into gaps for 2 great grabs

Indians rookie denies Tigers' Mahtook twice in twin bill

Zimmer zooms into gaps for 2 great grabs

DETROIT -- Indians relief ace Andrew Miller hoisted his arms skyward in celebration. As Detroit's Mikie Mahtook slowed into second base, he placed his hands atop his helmet in disbelief. In the left-center-field gap, Tribe rookie Bradley Zimmer smiled wide as he was helped to his feet.

Near the end of a long day of baseball in the Motor City, Zimmer provided what could go down as one of the catches of the year for Cleveland. In the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader, the Indians center fielder helped put the final touches on a 4-1 victory over the Tigers with an incredible diving catch to rob Mahtook for the second out in the ninth.

"I got a good jump on it," Zimmer said. "There's a lot of room out there, so I had to sell out. If I miss that, the ball goes to the wall and he's in scoring position."

Zimmer's jaw-dropping grab

In a short amount of time, Zimmer has established himself as one of the game's most promising young center fielders.

In addition to boasting the Indians' hardest-hit ball since 2015 when Statcast™ was introduced (114.6 mph on May 30), Zimmer has the hardest-thrown outfield assist in the Majors this season (101.5 mph on June 18) and ranks third in baseball in Sprint Speed (29.8 feet per second). Now, Zimmer has a pair of 3-star plays (one diving catch to rob Mahtook in each of Saturday's games) added to his impressive season.

Miller said Zimmer -- listed as 6-foot-5 and called "The Machine" by teammates -- is deceptively fast due to his size.

"He's so big compared to what we think of as the speedy guys," Miller said. "Whether that's just getting from home to first, beating out a ground ball, running in a gap, stealing a base, it's a little bit confusing to the eyes. You're used to seeing the little guys that are the speedsters. He can compete with anybody, it seems like.

"I'd take him in a race with just about anybody."

That might include Atlanta's The Freeze, who Zimmer already has challenged to a race.

With one out in the ninth inning, Mahtook sent the first pitch he received from Miller deep with an exit velocity of 101 mph. Zimmer bolted to his right, hitting a Sprint Speed of 28.3 feet per second in Comerica Park's spacious outfield. Per Statcast™, Zimmer covered 66 feet in 4.2 seconds -- a run that ended with him leaving his feet, snaring the ball from the air and halting a potential rally.

The catch probability for the play was 58 percent, making it a 3-star catch for Zimmer.

"That's one of the best plays I've seen all year," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He got fully extended. He's 6-5. If he's 6-4, he probably doesn't make it. The athleticism, that was [impressive]. After a long day at the ballpark, that was really fun to watch."

Mahtook also was robbed in the second inning of Detroit's 7-4 win in Game 1 on Saturday. For that catch, Zimmer chased down a low liner in the right-center gap.

Zimmer's diving catch

The second time, Mahtook was sure he got the best of the Tribe's fleet-footed center fielder.

"I didn't think he was going to get to that at all," Mahtook said. "That one was for sure going to be a triple if it gets over his head. I didn't think there was any shot he was going to get it. No chance."

When Miller spun around, he did not think Zimmer would get to the ball, either.

"I saw where the ball was going and where he was," Miller said, "and kind of chalked it to, 'All right, I need to make a pitch here.' He's an incredible athlete."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.