With the playoff chase heating up, each play has the potential to create a significant ripple effect. Fortunately, Statcast™ is there to provide a deeper look at these crucial moments
On Sunday, a hustling baserunner set up a game-changing home run for the American League West-leading Astros, while a huge swing from a talented rookie instantly turned a deficit into a tie for the Cubs in their charge toward the top National League Wild Card berth.
Statcast™ also helped highlight some defensive standouts on Sunday, including a slick-fielding shortstop, a rangy center fielder and a strong-armed right-fielder. A closer look at all five plays is below.
Altuve's legs spark Astros comeback
The Astros trailed the Twins 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park when they loaded the bases with two outs. On a 2-2 count against reliever Trevor May, Houston's Jose Altuve hit a bouncer to the left side that easily could have snuffed out the rally. But Altuve raced out of the box and reached a top speed of 21.787 mph, his 14th-fastest mark of the year, according to Statcast™ -- and the 10th-fastest going to first.
Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe charged the ball but had to try an off-balance throw, which traveled a modest 60.948 mph to first baseman Joe Mauer, who made a lunging grab. Altuve beat it for an infield single to keep the inning going, and four pitches later, Jed Lowrie's go-ahead grand slam sent Houston on its way to an 8-5 win.
A record homer from Bryant
The Cubs' Kris Bryant could be well on his way to an NL Rookie of the Year Award, and now he might be able to claim the season's longest homer, too.
When Bryant stepped into the box against D-backs right-hander Rubby De La Rosa to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning at Wrigley Field, the Cubs trailed 1-0. He then fell behind in the count 0-2 before De La Rosa made the mistake of coming over the plate with a 95.31 mph fastball.
Bryant sent it screaming over the left-field bleachers, and high off the new Wrigley Field video board, lifting the Cubs toward a 6-4 victory. The drive, struck at a personal-best 111.48 mph, was projected to travel 495.3 feet, topping Nationals rookie Michael A. Taylor's 492.8-foot shot on Aug. 20 at Colorado.
The hit was also more than 10 feet further than the next-longest homer not hit at thin-aired Coors Field: a 484.5-foot blast from Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop on Aug. 26 at Kansas City.
Gregorius makes the stop and throw
On their way to a 6-4 victory over the Rays in the Bronx, the Yankees got a fine play from shortstop Didi Gregorius. In a scoreless tie in the top of the second, Tampa Bay's Logan Forsythe made contact at 102.22 mph off Ivan Nova, sending a hard ground ball between third and short.
Gregorius took his first step in 0.262 seconds, ranged 17.034 feet to his right, slid on his left leg to make the stop, then popped up and fired 121.971 feet across the diamond to first baseman Greg Bird for the out.
The 78.955-mph throw wasn't among Gregorius' fastest -- he ranks fifth among shortstops in average throw velocity -- but it still was impressive considering he didn't have a chance to get much momentum behind him.
Betts travels far to rob Ruf
Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts faced a daunting task in the top of the fourth inning at Fenway Park, when the Phillies' Darin Ruf crushed a deep fly ball to right-center field off Boston's Eduardo Rodriguez. Betts, playing straight-away, took his first step in 0.205 seconds and set off after the ball, which sailed into Fenway's Bermuda Triangle area.
Reaching a top speed of 18.289 mph, Betts achieved his third-best route efficiency of the season (98.672 percent), and he got to his spot just in time, reaching up to make the grab before banging into the padded wall.
At 124.272 feet, it was the greatest distance Betts had traveled to make a play this season, helping the Red Sox preserve their lead in a 6-2 victory.
Smolinski's throw erases LoMo
With the Mariners and A's locked in a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning at Oakland, Seattle's Brad Miller smacked a ground-ball single into right field. Logan Morrison, who was on first base, reached a top speed of 17.734 mph as he tried to advance to third -- a trip that took him 7.76 seconds.
Oakland right fielder Jake Smolinski charged the ball and fired a one-hop throw at a sizzling 91.29 mph, covering 106.173 feet. Third baseman Danny Valencia snagged it and slapped a tag on Morrison, who helped the A's out by going into the bag standing up, at the instruction of third base coach Chris Woodward. That provided the first out, though Seattle recovered to score three in an eventual 3-2 win.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.