Statcast: Russell reacts fast for game-winning flip
By Paul Casella
Postseason races were in full swing on Saturday, with a number of dramatic finishes impacting clubs jockeying for playoff positioning.
Perhaps no moment was more dramatic, however, than the game-ending play at the Friendly Confines. Cubs shortstop Addison Russell put an end to a Cardinals' ninth-inning rally with a highlight-reel diving stop, followed by what Statcast™ will show was an almost immediate flip to second base to end the game.
Given all the drama across the Majors on Saturday, there was plenty of fodder for Statcast™. In addition to the game-ending play in Chicago, Statcast™ will also take a look at the almost identical back-to-back homers hit by a pair of Cubs rookies earlier in that game.
Speaking of rookies, the innovative technology will break down spectacular defensive plays involving rookies from both the Mets and the Astros, as well as the latest moonshot home run from Twins phenom Miguel Sano. It will delve further into other phenomenal home runs hit by Mike Trout and Brian McCann, while also taking a look at how the Tigers and Astros, respectively, managed to cut down some fleet-footed runners on the basepaths.
Here's an in-depth look at each of those plays, courtesy of Statcast™.
Russell makes split-second transfer to end game
Russell thwarted a late Cardinals rally on Saturday when he made an incredible diving stop up the middle, then quickly flipped to second base to record the game's final out to give the Cubs a 5-4 win.
With the tying run on first base after the Cardinals had already pushed across three runs in the ninth, St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty smoked a shot toward the middle. Russell took his first step only 0.21 seconds after contact en route to making a full-extension diving stop. He then swiftly flipped it to second base for the force out, releasing the ball from his throwing hand just 0.9 seconds after it had entered his glove.
Conforto lays out onto the track
Though Mets rookie Michael Conforto is off to an impressive start with his bat, it was his glove that was showcased on Saturday afternoon in the Subway Series. The Mets outfielder covered a total distance of 73 feet as he raced deep into the left-center field gap to make a diving catch to rob Brett Gardner of extra bases.
Though Conforto originally broke toward the gap to possibly cut the ball off, resulting in a route efficiency of 88.7 percent, he recovered in enough time to make the sprawling catch, thanks in part to reaching a max speed of 17.6 mph on the play. The Mets lost, 5-0.
Headley robs a hit with glove, arm
In the same game that showed off Conforto's glove skills, Yankees third baseman Chase Headley robbed a potential extra-base hit of his own with a diving stop followed by a strong throw in the second inning.
Though Wilmer Flores hit a hot shot down the line with an exit velocity of 94.9 mph, Headley took his first step just 0.43 seconds after contact, putting him in position to make the diving stop. Headley then quickly jumped to his feet and fired a 78.4-mph throw across the diamond to retire Flores.
Gorzelanny's arm trumps Dyson's speed
Tigers reliever Tom Gorzelanny quickly tracked down a Jarrod Dyson bunt attempt, then fired a strike to first base to keep the Royals speedster off the basepaths.
With the clubs tied at 1-1 in the top of the 11th inning, Gorzelanny hustled off the mound to field the bunt, and launched a 73.4-mph throw on the mark to retire Dyson, despite the fact that Dyson reached a max speed of 22 mph as he bolted down the first-base line. It proved to be a key out, as the Tigers went on to win the game, 6-5, in the bottom-half of the inning on an Ian Kinsler walk-off homer.
Cubs rookies hit mirror-image back-to-back shots
Rookie teammates Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant helped give the Cubs some breathing room on Saturday when the duo combined for back-to-back home runs against the Cardinals.
With Chicago clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth, Soler crushed a leadoff homer that left his bat at 108.9 mph and traveled 411 feet before finding a home in the left-field bleachers. Bryant then followed with a nearly identical shot toward the same spot. Bryant's blast came off the bat at 108.3 mph, and it traveled 411 feet to extend the Cubs' lead to three in their eventual 5-4 victory.
Correa makes twisting, turning grab
Continuing another stellar day for some of the league's top rookies, Astros phenom Carlos Correa flashed his superb defensive skillset to make a leaping catch in shallow left field in Houston's 10-6 win.
The shortstop reacted almost instantly to Jake Smolinski's flair toward left field. Correa took his first step just 0.05 seconds after contact. He then reached a max speed of 16.4 mph, and he logged a route efficiency of 91.4 percent -- all while traveling a total distance of 52 feet. That led to Correa having just enough time to leap and make the fully-extended reaching grab above -- and behind -- his head.
Astros execute relay to nail speedy Burns
Correa wasn't done yet, however, later teaming up with outfielder Colby Rasmus for a flawless relay to cut down A's outfielder Billy Burns, who was trying to stretch out a triple.
Rasmus fielded the high fly ball at the base of the left-center field wall, then fired a 76-mph throw to Correa, who rifled off an 83-mph strike to third base just in time to retire Burns. Correa registered an exchange time -- the time between catching the ball and releasing the throw -- of only 0.6 seconds, helping him get the out, even with Burns reaching a max speed of 20.8 mph as he dashed around the bases.
Sano-doubter ties the game
Sano continued his impressive rookie campaign on Saturday, crushing his farthest home run yet in the opening game of a doubleheader against the Angels, who won, 4-3.
With the Twins trailing by two, Sano teed off for a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning that left his bat at a scorching 112.1 mph. The ball landed in the upper-deck seats above the Target Field bullpens, traveling a projected distance of 448 feet. The distance and exit velocities were both the best registered by Sano thus far in his young career.
Trout leaves no doubt on insurance homer
Not to be outdone by the impressive play from some of the game's top rookies on Saturday, the former Rookie of the Year, Trout, teed off for his latest mammoth home run in the nightcap of the Angels' doubleheader against the Twins.
Trout tacked on a key insurance run in the Angels' 5-2 win, notching their second victory of the day. He crushed a homer off of Twins reliever Phil Hughes. The shot left Trout's bat at 107.2 mph, and it traveled a projected 433 feet before hitting the displays above the bullpens in left-center field.
McCann tacks on two with towering homer
McCann crushed a two-run homer off Mets starter Noah Syndergaard on Saturday, providing the Yankees with a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning as they blanked the Mets, 5-0.
McCann jumped all over a 3-1 pitch from the rookie hurler, sending it off his bat with an exit velocity of 105.9 mph. The ball traveled a projected distance of 429 feet before finally landing in the Citi Field bullpens in right-center field.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.