CLEVELAND -- When Torii Hunter ripped a pitch from Corey Kluber down the left-field line in the first inning on Monday, he looked to have a double. That was before left fielder Michael Brantley pulled off a defensive play he has seemingly mastered this season.
Brantley chased down the ball, gloved it and, in one smooth motion, spun and fired a perfect throw to second. Second baseman Jason Kipnis snared the relay and applied the tag on Hunter, ending Detroit's rally before it even started.
"I can't tell you how many rallies he seems to have averted," manager Terry Francona said. "He goes in the corner, he makes that throw and, if I'm a baserunner, I'm going, too, because it looks like a double. And then he throws it right on the money, and it's a one-hopper and it's like, boom, boom, you're out.
"Instead of a double and nobody out, we've got nobody on and one out. That's happened a lot of times."
Entering Tuesday's game, Brantley was tied with Chicago's Dayan Viciedo for the American League lead in assists by a left fielder, with 10, and only one behind the Major League leader, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. Among big leaguers with at least 70 starts in left, Brantley is one of just three (along with Kansas City's Alex Gordon and Baltimore's Nate McLouth) with no errors.
Brantley headed into Tuesday's action with a team-leading errorless streak of 201 games.
He is also one of just 13 Cleveland left fielders since 1921 to have at least 10 assists in one season. The last to accomplish the feat was Albert Belle, who had 11 assists from left field in 1996.
"I take pride in my defense," Brantley said. "I work hard each and every day to try to make it better. I made the adjustment from center to left, and going into that, I knew there'd be more opportunities to get balls off the wall and more opportunities to cut balls off and try to make solid throws to second.
"When you can just throw out one runner -- it doesn't matter how many I have right now -- just one helps the team out. It cuts down rallies."