#5 Jose Bautista‘s arm to first-base
Jose Bautista is no annual Gold Glove nominee. In fact, by DRS and UZR standards, Bautista is hardly an above average outfielder as far as defence is concerned.
However, that didn’t stop the Jays superstar from catching the Kansas City Royals with their pants down on consecutive nights to manifest two of the best plays throughout all of baseball in 2014.
The first began on the eve of May, 29. With Casey Janssen in to close out their 6-5 lead, Billy Butler stood at the plate with one out already surrendered. After delivering three uneventful pitches, Janssen fires a fastball to the outer half of the plate, thigh high. Butler offers at the pitch, taking it the other way for a line-drive base-hit, or what he thinks will be a base hit.
The problem is, he’s hit it so hard and in such an unfortunate direction, it’s heading right for right-fielder Jose Bautista. Butler acknowledges this and is busting it down the line to first base but before he can reach first base, Bautista has already gathered the ball and, in one eloquent motion, hurled it to first base for the second out of the inning.
The crazy part about this play is that he does it again…the following day.
On May 30, in the seventh inning, trailing 4-1, Omar Infante steps up to the plate. The count is 0-1 with one out, J.A Happ is on the mound. Happ delivers a 93 mph fastball at the knees and Infante thinks he’s fouled it off down the first base-line. He turns away as if to wait for the ball’s landing in the stands and prepare for the next pitch. What he doesn’t know, somehow, is that the ball is travelling down the line in fair territory. Jose Bautista does.
Bautista makes a charge for the ball but realizes it’s going to land several feet in fair territory and makes an intelligent split-second decision to pull up short and trap the fly ball. Again in a mere flash, Bautista leaves his feet, traps the ball and spins, throwing the ball to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion long before Infante is anywhere near reaching first base.
It makes for the second out of the seventh inning, and easily one of the most interesting plays of 2014.