A looper that fades over 200 feet — not even far enough to breach the Little League World Series fences — could very well be the game that defines the Yankees’ entire season.
In the top of the tenth inning of Friday’s Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez threw a weakly batted ball into shallow left field.
Oswaldo Cabrera came in, Josh Donaldson came out, and Ramirez was rolling around the bases much faster than the Yankees defenders were chasing the ball. When the ball landed right in front of a sprawling Cabrera, the kid who was still learning left field was able to trap him to avoid passing him.
Then Donaldson got involved.
The over-eager third baseman gloved the ball, rolled, and fired toward second base without really looking at the play. By then, Ramirez was basically in second, his hustle earning him an easy double.
Just as he was about to put it in the park atop the sack from second base, Ramirez saw Donaldson’s throw go past him and into right field. Ramirez easily took third, scored on another dying quail a batter later, and just like that, the Guardians had seized the biggest moment of the biggest game of their season.
After the dust settled, Donaldson and Cabrera offered their take on the blooper that got away with it.
“We were both going there,” Donaldson said. “I saw it out of the corner of my eye. It was going full steam ahead right there, so I backed up. The ball stayed close [to us] and I thought I had a chance on the second, and I pulled the pitch a little bit trying to make a play. Jose Ramirez does what he does, he keeps running.
Cabrera noted that the afternoon start time made things a little hard to see, but wouldn’t use that as an excuse to miss the ball in the tenth inning when the sun had started to set.
“It was hard [to see] for about four innings,” he admitted. “I had a pop-up that was in direct sunlight. I grabbed it, but it was like, ‘Whoa!’
Later in the tenth, center fielder Harrison Bader took a very curious route to a ball that sailed over his head for a brace. It looked like Bader was struggling to pick up the ball, although Cabrera said from left field it was fine.
“The sun was not in the game [of the Ramirez play]. We tried. [Donaldson] tried to get that ball. I tried to get this ball. It’s just baseball, you know?
The playoffs have featured several plays like this before, balls that narrowly escape the defender’s gloves, leading to momentous runs. The Phillies took a ninth-inning lead in Game 1 of their Wild Card series on a fly ball that slipped just under the glove of St. Louis second baseman Tommy Edman. The Mariners won Game 2 of their Wild Card bonanza in Toronto on a shallow fly ball that caused center fielder George Springer and shortstop Bo Bichette to collide. Seattle then got a taste of its own medicine on Thursday, when Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena threw a fly ball into the outfield that set up Yordan Alvarez’s home run.
Now another game has been added to that group, and it’s one that Donaldson (who received a mistake for his efforts) says he doesn’t regret at all.
“I think it would have been bang bang, even if I had made a very good throw,” he said. “At the time, I thought I had a chance. But, I didn’t make a good pitch. At the end of the day, I was trying to make a play. I’ll live with that .