Throw tracked at 92.1 mph covers 182 feet to finish off key 9th-inning double play
By Andrew Simon
Although the Red Sox suffered a 1-0 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, a strong throw by right fielder Mookie Betts helped keep Boston within striking distance in the final inning.
With Baltimore looking to add to its slim lead in the top of the ninth, Manny Machado picked up a one-out single off Koji Uehara, bringing up slugger Chris Davis. On a 2-2 pitch, Davis lifted a fly ball 350 feet to right.
Betts made the catch a few steps in front of the warning track as Machado tagged from first, then fired an accurate, one-hop throw to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who applied the tag for the inning-ending double play.
"I know the wind was kind of blowing against me and I was tying to keep it low," Betts said. "But fortunately I was able to get behind it, get a little something on it and be accurate."
Betts' heave was both his hardest (92.1 mph) and farthest (182 feet) out of his 13 assists this season, according to Statcast™. It supplanted a double play he turned against the Royals on May 18, when Betts grabbed an Eric Hosmer liner and unleashed a 90-mph throw over 179 feet to catch Lorenzo Cain off first base.
A few factors helped contribute to Betts' sensational play on Wednesday.
First, in deference to Davis' massive power, Betts started off 296 feet from home plate, which is nine feet further than his season average. Second, the ball's extreme launch angle (38.5 degrees) and hang time (6.4 seconds) gave Betts ample time to cover 65 feet and get in good position to make the catch, with his momentum behind him.
While Betts' route efficiency was a modest 92.2 percent, that was due at least in part to his desire to get set up for the throw, as opposed to taking a direct path to the ball.
Although Machado reached his second-fastest speed from first base this year, at 20.1 mph, he couldn't overcome Betts' solid fundamentals and strong arm. That put an end to the Orioles' quest for an insurance run, keeping the score 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
"He does such a great job finding the wall, where he's going to be," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Betts, who began transitioning from second base to the outfield in 2014. "He gets behind it, throws a low-strike one-hop. He works at that part of the game. I think that's his 13th assist on the season. How far he's come as an outfielder in two years time is pretty remarkable."
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.