It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Super-Sub, Josh Harrison.
The Oakland A’s were in a tight spot on Saturday. They led by two runs in the 9th inning, with two outs, but the Los Angeles Angels had the bases loaded. A single could tie it, and anything more could result in a walk-off loss, which would be devastating as Oakland needs every possible win to maintain their final 5% hopes of staying in the Wild Card race.
The A’s bullpen has been been mired in a deep slump for the past month, blowing nine saves in the span of 24 games entering last night. They’ve been recovering lately, holding a few leads in a row this week, but every close contest remains an adventure. When Andrew Chafin delivered a fastball, and Halos catcher and former A’s prospect Max Stassi punched it up the middle, it looked like it had happened again — unthinkable, yet completely expected at this point.
Off the bat it was a bloop single, 75.8 mph of exit velocity directly toward no-man’s land, with enough loft to be ticketed over the infield and into shallow center. Once it hit the turf, two runs would score, the game would be tied, and the save would be blown.
Instead, something else happened. Second baseman Harrison was shifted far toward the bag, almost behind it, and he was positioned particularly deep. As the ball approached, he waited and then perfectly timed a leap, stretching every inch of his 5-foot-8 frame to snag it in the end of his glove. He landed and the ball stayed secure, peeking out the top of the webbing for a snow cone catch.
The game was over, and the A’s had won.
SHOUT OUT TO HARRISON'S CLUTCH CATCH TO END THE GAME pic.twitter.com/d0srI8ziuk— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 19, 2021
“Give it a lick or two,” said broadcaster Dallas Braden of the snow cone.
A lot of factors go into any victory, but this particular moment saved the game at the most critical of junctures. Without that catch, the chances of winning would have dropped far under 50/50, the dwindling postseason odds would have moved closer to zero, and the morale of the fan base would have dipped into the negatives after yet another last-minute heartbreak. It might have been the play of the year so far.
It’s just the latest clutch contribution from Harrison, who is exemplifying the role of super-sub since being acquired at the July trade deadline. On defense he started at three different positions the last three games, from third base on Thursday in place of an injured Matt Chapman, to shortstop on Friday while a banged-up Elvis Andrus took a rest, to second base on Saturday, and he’s also played left field for Oakland.
At the plate, over his last eight games he’s batting .324 with 12 RBI, helping lead the hot lineup’s September surge. As the leadoff hitter over the past 19 games he’s gotten on base to set the table, and his high rate of contact makes him a threat with runners in scoring position. Overall he’s batting .299 with a 111 wRC+ since donning the green-and-gold.
On Saturday he put the cherry on top of all that production with his biggest play yet. If the A’s somehow go on to reach the postseason, which is still a long shot, this catch will be one of the top highlights we look back on. And even if not, at least it helped keep hope alive another day longer.