'Perfect throw' saves Astros, ends Yanks' rally

'Perfect throw' saves Astros, ends Yanks' rally

NEW YORK -- The throw had to be perfect, and Astros left fielder Jake Marisnick was up to the challenge.

After entering the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning Thursday night, Marisnick threw out Jacoby Ellsbury -- representing the potential tying run -- at the plate to end the game and give the red-hot Astros a dramatic 3-2 win over the Yankees.

The Yankees, trailing 3-1, put runners on second and third base with two outs in the ninth against Astros closer Ken Giles for Gary Sanchez, who stroked a single to left field to score Aaron Hicks from third. Marisnick charged and threw a strike on the fly to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged out a sliding Ellsbury to end the game.

"Yeah, it was coming out there pretty good and I had a chance to take my time with it," Marisnick said. "That's the biggest thing is not to rush it. I was able to take my time and make a good throw."

In 2015, Marisnick recorded the top average arm strength on "competitive throws" among outfielders, clocking in at an average of 98.6 mph, according to Statcast™. He placed in the top five again in '16 with an average arm strength of 95.7 mph.

How sure was Marisnick he had the out?

"I kind of started celebrated a little early, and I stopped and watched what was happening," he joked.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said third-base coach Joe Espada sending the runner home was the right call, considering the situation.

"You have to take that shot," he said. "It took a perfect throw to get him. If there's less than two outs, you don't do it, but it's the right call. He made a perfect throw."

Ellsbury said he was running on contact, even though the outfielders were pulled in.

"When I see McCann reaching for the ball, I knew," he said. "Whoever was behind home was steering me toward inside the plate. They made a good throw. I got a good jump off the bat from Gary, and they made a good throw."

In games he doesn't start -- Norichika Aoki started Thursday -- Marisnick routinely enters the game as a defensive replacement, usually in center field. But in big left fields like Yankee Stadium, Houston manager A.J. Hinch prefers Marisnick in left.

"When the ball was hit, I had a high degree of confidence, just because he was playing a little bit in, the ball was hit pretty hard," Hinch said. "He's going to charge the ball, he's going to make a good throw. There's a lot that's got to happen for that to go right. Marisnick brings his defense to the ballpark every single day. I try to put him in there a ton. He came up with the big throw."

McCann, the former Yankee, said the throw was perfect.

"Jake, he puts a lot of pride in his defense and his game and he works on that all the time," the catcher said. "You see him get out there and working on days he doesn't play. He came up huge for us tonight."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.