Though the Giants ultimately won Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on a defensive miscue in the bottom of the 10th inning, a defensive highlight in the top-half of the inning may have been every bit as important to the Giants' 5-4 walk-off victory on Tuesday.
With a runner on first and two outs in the top of the 10th, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop toward the line then fired a throw to first base, robbing Matt Holliday of a hit -- and possibly an RBI. Using Statcast technology, the potential game-changing play can now be broken down like never before.
One key to the play was certainly that Sandoval was playing no-doubles defense, hugging the line a bit more than usual. Given the situation, the last thing the Giants wanted was for Holliday to sneak a ball down the line that would allow Jon Jay to race around and score from first base.
Sandoval's stop proved to be critical, as Statcast shows us that Jay got a great jump toward second, accelerating to full speed in just 1.20 seconds and reaching a maximum speed of 17.6 mph as he prepared to round second base. Had Sandoval not made the play, Jay would have likely achieved a higher maximum speed during his full sprint between second and third base.
As for Holliday, he accelerated out of the box at a 2.53-second clip and reached a maximum speed of 17.8 mph before slowing up shy of the base as he watched Giants first baseman Brandon Belt stretch out to field Sandoval's throw.
The play not only frustrated Holliday, who slammed his helmet down behind first base, but it set the table for the Giants' walk-off victory.
Statcast shows that Blanco then raced out of the batter's box, reaching a maximum speed of 20.2 mph on the play. With Blanco bearing down so quickly on first base, Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate airmailed the throw to second baseman Kolten Wong, who had raced over to cover the bag. Crawford, who had extended his secondary lead to an even 20 feet as Choate entered his delivery, needed just 0.56 seconds to accelerate into a full sprint, reaching a top speed of 17.2 mph before scoring. It was just the eighth postseason game to ever end on an error.
NLCS Game 3:Hudson starts a DP
After being hit by a pitch with one out, Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey took a 12-foot lead off first base as leadoff man Matt Carpenter awaited the pitch from Tim Hudson. Carpenter bounced one right back to Hudson, who turned and fired to shortstop Crawford to easily retire Lackey, who took 1.97 seconds to accelerate to his top speed of 12.1 mph. Lackey never really had a chance to get going or break up the double play, which made the turn easier.
Carpenter burned his way down the first-base line, reaching a maximum speed of 20.1 mph, just before lunging for the base. It was nearly enough to beat it out, but his 2.81-second acceleration time coming out of the left-handed batter's box left him just a hair shy of preventing a double play.
NLCS Game 3:Wong's triple plates two
One game after playing the hero with a walk-off home run, Wong continued to swing a hot bat in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
With Jay at second base and Holliday at first in the fourth inning, Wong lifted an 0-1 pitch from Tim Hudson to deep right field. With two outs at the time, Jay and Holliday took off at the crack of the bat, and both scored easily after right fielder Hunter Pence failed to make the play after battling the wind. Wong took a small hop out of the box and had a 2.78-second acceleration time as he started his looping jog toward first base. It didn't take him long, however, to turn on the jets, reaching his maximum speed of 18.8 mph shortly after rounding first base.
ALCS Game 1:Hundley's crazy scoop
With the game tied at 5 in top of the ninth, Orioles reliever Zach Britton walked the first three batters he faced, but then got bailed out when Eric Hosmer hit a week grounder to first base. Alcides Escobar, the runner on third, had a secondary lead of 13 feet, 9 inches, but got an understandably slow start, as he wanted to be conservative with no one out. (He ultimately reached a top speed of 20.3 mph, which is impressive.) First baseman Steve Pearce charged Hosmer's grounder and made a clean scoop, but his throw came in low, and it took an incredible scoop by catcher Nick Hundley to record the out, with the ball beating Escobar by just .17 seconds.
NLCS Game 2:Pence out by step
With two outs and nobody on in the top of the fourth, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter made a smooth inning-ending defensive play with Pence racing down the line. Statcast shows that it took Pence just 1.45 seconds to accelerate to top speed, reaching 20.5 mph as he nearly legged out an infield single. Instead, it went as a groundout with Carpenter scooping and throwing to first base just in time to retire Pence, despite his furious dash down the line.
ALCS Game 1 and 2:Dyson gets caught … twice
Counting the postseason, Dyson entered this series 121-for-141 (85.8 percent) as a basestealer in his career, including 71-for-84 (84.5 percent) over the past two seasons. Yet he is now 0-for-2 against Baltimore, marking only the second time he's been caught in consecutive games. In Game 1, Dyson took his first step in 0.27 seconds and accelerated to a top speed of 20.1 mph in 2.2 seconds. He slid in ahead of a 70.1 mph throw from catcher Nick Hundley, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop kept his tag on Dyson's left leg as he appeared to push it off the base. Dyson was called out.
No such tactics were necessary in Game 2 with Caleb Joseph catching lefty Andrew Miller. This time, Dyson reached a higher top speed (22.3 mph), but the pitch was high, giving Joseph a good opportunity to throw. Joseph, who threw out 40 percent of attempted basestealers this year, threw a laser strike that hit shortstop J.J. Hardy perfectly, on the first-base side of the bag. Hardy put the tag down on Dyson's left shoulder just before he reached the base.
ALCS Game 2:Cain races home from second
With no score in the first inning, Nori Aoki stood at third and Lorenzo Cain at second with one out when Eric Hosmer hit a blooper that dropped over Hardy's head, into shallow left field. Statcast shows that Cain took a 19-foot lead off second, went about halfway, then shifted into high gear once he saw Hardy couldn't make the play. The fleet-footed outfielder accelerated to top speed in 1.92 seconds, reaching 20.5 mph as he flew the last 90 feet and slid home ahead of Joseph's tag.
ALCS Game 2:Cain swipes a bag
After his third hit, in the fifth inning, Cain's legs carried him into scoring position again. Reliever Brad Brach, pitching out of the stretch, paid close attention to Cain with a pair of pickoff throws as Hosmer worked the count to 3-0. The Royals hadn't attempted a steal on that count all season, but this time Cain took a 12-foot lead and broke for second on a 94-mph fastball that went for strike one. Accelerating in 2.11 seconds, Cain reached 20.4 mph and slid in ahead of Joseph's throw, which bounced off Hardy's glove.
ALCS Game 2: Cain sprints, lays out to rob Hardy
Cain tormented the Orioles defensively as well. Hardy led off the sixth inning with a drive that traveled about 350 feet into the right-center-field gap off Ventura. It looked like an extra-base hit off the bat, but Cain had other ideas. From his position in center, he took his first step toward the ball in less than a quarter of a second, accelerating to a maximum speed of 21.2 mph in 3.74 seconds. But to make the play, Cain needed more than pure speed. Statcast measured his route efficiency at 99.7 percent, meaning he traversed a nearly optimal path from his original location to the spot where he dove to snag Hardy's shot. That allowed his long strides to cover 82 feet of outfield in only 3.65 seconds.
ALCS Game 2:Gore shows off his wheels Terrance Gore was on second with one out in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game. And because so much speed represented the go-ahead run in such a crucial juncture, Orioles second baseman Schoop had to watch Gore closely at second, which meant first baseman Steve Pearce had to shade well off first base, which opened up a gaping hole down the right-field line for the right-handed-hitting Alcides Escobar, who doubled home Gore to put the Royals ahead for good.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.