Statcast: Pence slips, but still beats Escobar's throw
By Andrew Simon
At times this season, the Royals have made it look like they can pull off just about any play in the field, no matter the difficulty.
When the Giants' Hunter Pence hit a ground ball into the hole between third base and shortstop in the sixth inning on Wednesday night, it provided another highlight-reel opportunity in Game 2 of the World Series. But as Statcast tracking technology shows, the numbers were working against Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar.
With the score knotted, 2-2, in an eventual 7-2 Royals win, the Giants had Buster Posey on first with one out when Pence hit the grounder off Yordano Ventura. Escobar had to range about 36 feet to his right to reach the ball near the outfield grass. Under normal circumstances, Escobar would have had no chance at throwing out Pence at first base, but Pence slipped coming out of the batter's box. With his momentum continuing toward the third-base line, Escobar tried a jump throw to first but couldn't get much on it. Pence, hustling at a maximum of 21.1 mph, was able to beat the throw with room to spare.
More from Game 2 of the World Series
Escobar caught stealing
The Royals tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first inning, but they could have done more damage, if not for a strong play by Posey and Joe Panik. With one out, Kansas City had a stolen-base threat at first base in Alcides Escobar, who was successful on 31 of 37 stolen-base attempts during the regular season and was 1-for-1 in the playoffs. With Lorenzo Cain at the plate against Jake Peavy, Escobar took a 12-foot lead and bolted for second, reaching 19.5 mph. Posey snatched the inside pitch and fired a one-hop throw to second, which Panik smoothly scooped before getting the tag down on Escobar, just in time.
Cain doubles, scores on Butler's single
With Escobar erased, the Royals had the bases empty with two outs but didn't let Peavy off the hook. First, Cain lashed a 318-foot line drive to left-center field that dropped out of the reach of diving left fielder Travis Ishikawa, a converted first baseman. Center fielder Gregor Blanco backed up the play and made a strong throw to second base, but Cain motored around first at a top speed of 20.2 mph and slid in safely at second. After Eric Hosmer walked, Billy Butler followed with a ground ball that sneaked past diving shortstop Brandon Crawford and into left-center. Cain again reached 20.2 mph as he flew home with the tying run, making it easily.
Cain scores go-ahead run
The Royals broke open a 2-2 tie with a five-run sixth inning that evened the series at a game apiece. Once again it was Butler with the big hit, a line drive to left field off reliever Jean Machi, with Cain at second and Hosmer at first. The ball was hit hard at Ishikawa, but with his inexperience and Cain's speed, third-base coach Mike Jirschele waved the runner home. Cain, just a tiny tick slower this time at a still-blazing 20.1 mph, raced around and slid in without a play. The Royals led 3-2 and didn't look back.
Statcast highlights from earlier in the postseason
World Series Game 1: Royals' slick relay throw
With runners on first and third and one out in the first inning, Pablo Sandoval smoked a James Shields breaking ball into Kauffman Stadium's right-field corner. Gregor Blanco scored easily from second. Buster Posey, stationed at first, took an initial nine-foot lead and extended it to 14 feet at contact. Traveling at a top speed of 18.4 mph, Posey got the wave toward home, but the risk didn't pay off, as Royals right fielder Nori Aoki deftly played the carom off the wall and zipped a throw to cutoff man Omar Infante, who fired to the plate. The throw got to catcher Salvador Perez with Posey still a few steps from home, giving Perez time to easily slap a tag on Posey's leg as he came in standing.
NLCS Game 5: Deflected grounder helps Giants
With two outs and two on in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals' Kolten Wong hit a smash to the left side of the infield. It looked like the ball would get through and score pinch-runner Daniel Descalso from second, but Giants third baseman Sandoval managed to get the tip of his glove on the ball. It took a favorable Giants hop, though, as shortstop Crawford raced over to backhand it and quickly flipped to second base for a crucial out. Crawford traveled 24.7 feet on the play, ultimately being in the exact right place at the right time. Crawford's quick reactions helped him narrowly throw out Randal Grichuk at second, despite Grichuk having expanded his secondary lead to 13 feet off first base prior to the hit and reaching a maximum speed of 19.1 mph during it.
ALCS Game 4: Gordon goes off the wall
With the Royals holding a one-run lead in the fifth inning, the Orioles' J.J. Hardy turned on an inside pitch from Jason Vargas and walloped it to left field. Kauffman Stadium held its collective breath as the ball sailed, according to the Statcast, precisely 374.4 feet. That wasn't enough to clear Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who raced back to the wall, reaching a top speed of 16.7 mph. The ball smacked into Gordon's glove just before he smacked into the screen-covered scoreboard, and he held on as he fell backward to the dirt, holding his glove up to show he made the catch.
ALCS Games 1 and 2: Dyson gets caught ... twice
Counting the postseason, Jarrod 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 started the ALCS 0-for-2 against Baltimore, marking only the second time he was 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 it came off the bag, possibly applying the pressure that made Dyson's leg stray.
No such tactic was 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 during the regular season, made a perfect throw to shortstop Hardy, 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 sprints, lays out to rob Hardy
Cain tormented the Orioles defensively. Hardy led off the sixth inning with a drive that traveled about 350 feet into the right-center-field gap off Yordano 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 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 the Royals' Eric Hosmer hit a weak 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 Hundley to record the out, with the ball beating Escobar by just .17 seconds.
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.