A quick decision by Tribe third-base coach Steve Smith helped put Kipnis in perfect position to make the play. Prior to the pitch that led to the second baseman's catch, Smith instructed Kipnis to move back a few feet.
"He nailed that one," Kipnis said.
With one out and Pittsburgh's Neil Walker on third base in the sixth, the Indians infield was aligned in a pull shift against Pirates designated hitter Garrett Jones. First baseman Casey Kotchman, Kipnis and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera were all on the right side of the infield, and they each were playing in on the grass.
Smith glanced at the positioning and saw a collision waiting to happen.
"When I'm looking at it, there's three guys next to each other," Smith explained. "How many times do you have the shift on with the infield in? It very rarely happens. So, to me, it was like, if that ball is hit in between, we're going to have a collision. That kind of went in my head."
Smith thought of a similar situation in a May 17 game against the Rays in 2010. With a shift on, Asdrubal Cabrera broke his left forearm in a collision with Jhonny Peralta, and he missed two months of the season as a result. Smith did not want to risk having a similar play unfold on Friday night against the Pirates.
"Another thing is [Jones] is a power hitter," Smith said, "So I just put [Kipnis] back five steps to give him a little more range."
Jones lofted a pitch from Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson into shallow right field and Kipnis was able to track it down with a great over-the-shoulder catch. Kipnis quickly spun and threw the ball to the plate, keeping Walker at third base. Masterson then induced an inning-ending groundout from Casey McGehee.
"It worked out," Smith said.