CHICAGO -- Over dinner in downtown Chicago on Saturday night, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal and a few of his bullpen mates found the subject matter shift to Jason Heyward's arm. They collectively marveled over the defensive display they've seen from the right fielder, whose two Gold Glove Awards had come with another club.
A day later, that group, including Rosenthal, who stood on the bullpen mound wondering what sort of mess he may soon be thrust into, saw Heyward's greatest display of accuracy and arm strength yet. With a one-hop throw that could not have been better placed, Heyward completed a double play that helped the Cardinals untangle from a bases-loaded mess and eventually hang on to a 4-3 win over the Cubs.
Catcher Yadier Molina, who sprained his left thumb making the swipe tag, later called it the "game-saver." Manager Mike Matheny said he hasn't seen a better throw all year. Starter Carlos Martinez, who watched the play unfold from the clubhouse, abandoned his native Spanish tongue to express his reaction afterward.
"Oh, what a throw," he said. "What a throw."
The assist, Heyward's eighth of the season, bailed out a bullpen that nearly let a much-needed victory slip away. After a leadoff single, the Cardinals issued three straight walks -- one by Kevin Siegrist, two from Jonathan Broxton -- before double-play specialist Seth Maness was summoned.
This would be among the more unusual double plays he has recorded, but also on the list of most critical.
Anthony Rizzo tagged up as Addison Russell lifted a ball to right field. Heyward shooed off center fielder Tommy Pham and positioned himself to make the catch with his momentum coming forward. With a throw that Statcast™ calculated to be at 95.5 mph, Heyward covered 242 feet to throw out Rizzo by a step.
"I know I'm going to make a great throw," Heyward said. "You just want to make the best throw you can and get yourself in a great position and hope for the best."
It was the second time this season and the 14th time in his career that Heyward had thrown out a runner at home. He was asked if, given the circumstances, this was the best of the bunch.
"It's the only one I care about right now," he said with a smirk. "I feel like I've made some good throws, but it was a great one right there to keep the game from being tied up. That killed some momentum for them, and our pitchers being able to get out of that inning was awesome."
This play came one week after Heyward robbed Cincinnati's Ivan De Jesus Jr. of a home run.
"Being able to have that bird's-eye view from the bullpen all year long in St. Louis and watch him play right field, I was first of all surprised by the arm that he has and then how he shows up and plays hard every day," said Rosenthal, who followed the double play by ending the Cubs' threat with a strikeout. "He just plays hard every day. It's a lot of fun to see what he brings."