It’s the bottom of the 5th in a 5-1 game where the visiting team has staked out an early lead. There are 2 outs and the home team is threatening with runners on 2nd and 3rd. The team’s hottest hitter is in the box, looking to make it a ball game again. He is down in the count 0-1, batting from the right side of the plate and facing off against a hard-throwing lefty.
The lefty sets, pauses briefly, and delivers an 0-1 breaking pitch. The pitch is low and short of the plate, biting hard into the dirt. The catcher slides to his left to make a difficult block, but the ball takes a high hop and ricochets off of the catchers mask towards the first base dugout. The catcher is stunned by the contact for a second before chasing after the ball. The pitcher covers home as the catcher gives chase, but the runner from third will score easily. The runner from second, hustling hard the whole time and looking for the extra 90 feet wheels around third and heads for home. The catcher slides to the ball, which has reached the railing along the first base dugout, and fires it home.
The ball gets to the pitcher just as the runner starts his dive into home. The throw is to the infield side of first base, causing the lefty to have to reach back across his body and complete a 360 degree turn before putting the tag down. The runner slides in safely, just ahead of the tag. The game, now 5-3, has a whole new feeling as the momentum sways back towards the home team.
What Went Wrong:
In reality, what goes wrong here is the location of the pitch, which bounces so far in front of the plate that it is basically impossible for the catcher to block it effectively. After that pitch, everyone on both sides of the ball executes well.
We want to focus on the anticipation from the base runner at second, who is rewarded for an incredible effort and doing everything right. The runner only has a chance to score from second if he is running hard from the start and looking to take the extra 90 feet. Everything with the carom off the catcher works in his favor, and his preparation pays off. He beats the throw by fractions of a second and breathes new life into his team.
This lesson is applicable to all base running situations. As a runner, you should always anticipate and prepare to take the extra base. You do this by always running hard and always thinking the game. Most of the time, the game will limit you to the bases you deserve, but every so often the opportunity to steal 90 presents itself. Only by preparing for these opportunities every time you are on the base paths will you be able to capitalize when they actually happen. In this case, preparing for this opportunity provided a much-needed run and helped the home team eventually tie the game. You may remember it from Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. You can watch the play right here.