Ramon Laureano did it again. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Oakland A’s center fielder make incredible defensive plays, and on Sunday he authored a new one against the Blue Jays.
Laureano’s newest gem was reminiscent of last year’s catch-and-throw double play against the Angels, which was named by MLB Network as the top play of 2018 in the entire majors. This time around the throw wasn’t as good, but the catch was much better than last year’s, and all told it unquestionably saved two runs.
Let’s start by setting the scene. In the 2nd inning, Justin Smoak led off with a single, bringing up Teoscar Hernandez to face A’s pitcher Brett Anderson. Hernandez worked the count full, and then blasted a ball deep to left-center, toward the shorter section of wall to the right of the jagged edge.
It should have been a home run. It literally cleared the fence. But Laureano leaped, reached over the wall, and pulled it back.
That would have been enough on its own to rank as one of the best plays of the year, since a robbed homer is always both special to see and valuable to the team. Toronto outright earned two runs, and Laureano wiped them off the board, plain and simple. But then he upped the ante.
After making the catch, with Smoak scrambling back to first base, Laureano uncorked an enormous throw toward the bag. Unlike last year, though, when the throw nailed Mark Canha directly in the glove, this time it sailed about 20 feet over first baseman Kendrys Morales. A physically impressive throw, no doubt, but not a terribly useful one in this case.
Fortunately, Laureano’s teammates backed him up. Catcher Nick Hundley cut off the overthrow before it could hop into the dugout or the stands, and he quickly threw to second base as Smoak tried to advance. Hundley’s throw got there in plenty of time, and Jurickson Profar applied the tag to complete the deuce.
“When a guy makes such an incredible play, you can’t let him take an error after that,” said Hundley, whose heads-up awareness and hustle were critical to backing up the play and recording the second out.
Here’s a video so you can watch the whole thing for yourself:
The catch.— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) April 21, 2019
The most unreal double play you'll ever see #RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/vuB5EsgDhd
A couple closer angles of the catch, including a side-angle, which shows him really getting over the wall to pull the ball back.
THIS CATCH pic.twitter.com/LMPLjkKOc6— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) April 21, 2019
The throw wasn’t effective, but only because it was way too far. How far? Basically all the way to Berkeley.
“I throw without thinking, so that happens sometimes,” said Laureano.
“He threw it further than the ball was hit, I think,” quipped Anderson.
HOW DO YOU THROW A BASEBALL THAT FAR?!?!?!#RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/pekvxTLcRa— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) April 21, 2019
Of course, we’ve seen quite a bit of Laureano’s arm already this year. He threw out Xander Bogaerts twice in two days, and through his first 22 games of the season he’d already racked up five assists. Now we know he could throw out a runner in the parking lot if he had to. Really no matter where you are, just Don’t Run On Ramon.
“He doesn’t really surprise me anymore with the throws and the catches,” said Anderson. “He’s definitely special out there.” Anderson joked that Laureano may have been inspired by the presence of former CF stud Coco Crisp, who was announcing the game in the radio broadcast booth.
Dallas Braden was loving Laureano’s latest display.
.@DALLASBRADEN209's reaction to Laureano's ridiculous catch and double play is amazing pic.twitter.com/AzIJY015SR— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) April 21, 2019
Later in the game, Laureano nearly made another impossible play. The Blue Jays hit a sac fly to deep center, and he came within one step of nabbing the runner at the plate. It should have been a routine trot home for the runner, and instead it was bang-bang. The Toronto writers sitting next to me in the press box dropped their jaws to the floor that there was even a play at the plate at all.
This A’s team is playing some unreal defense. We already know all about third baseman Matt Chapman, the undisputed best defender in the majors at any position, and Laureano is proving to be elite as well. He’s worth the price of admission on his own, and if you’re still unclear about the value of defense, he’s Exhibit A.