With a bullpen stretched thin after a hard-fought rival series in the Bronx and facing down another razor-thin margin late in the game, the Rays desperately needed an offensive explosion.
They got exactly that with a 5-run 7th inning. It wasn’t through power or the long ball. It was due to elite speed and extremely good baserunning.
The entire inning was set up by a single play. With two men on, the speedy Roman Quinn at 1st, Jose Siri smacked a 107 MPH Exit Velocity grounder, 3rd hardest hit ball of the game, right to Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez.
A tailor-made inning-ending double play ball. If Lopez turns that, there’s no 5-run inning.
Except, Lopez wasn’t able to turn it. Speed, baserunning, and an incredible play worthy of a second look helped get the Rays a win.
A hair under 4 total seconds from bat to ball to cleat to bag and bases loaded.
When Lopez gets the ball, he looks to 2nd immediately. It’s the right play. Get the lead runner, and try for the double play. You can pinpoint the moment both Lopez and the camera person get faked out and realize Quinn has made the play at 2nd impossible.
The brief moment of hesitation and realization makes the play at 1st also extremely hard. Like Quinn, Siri possesses elite-level sprint speed. In fact, Siri may be the fastest player in major league baseball, and his sprint speed is currently at the 100th percentile. Even with the hesitation from Lopez, Siri as a right-handed hitter being able to beat out this play is simply incredible. And it wasn’t even close enough for a review.
This play does not happen without these two incredibly fast players forcing the issue.
Nicky Lopez last year was worth 24 Outs Above Average at shortstop. He’s a very good defender. I’m not sure how many routine double play balls to him have ever ended up with 0 outs recorded. His “Wow” says, probably not many.
Speed alone could not make this play. Roman Quinn sees the over shift on, with Roayls 1B Nick Pratto shifted well over towards 2nd. With nobody covering 1st, Quinn is able to basically follow Pratto as far as he wants to go.
Already halfway to 2nd, Quinn is off like a lightning bolt the second contact is made. Even with a 107 MPh ball off the bat, Quinn’s elite speed and excellent lead is able to give Lopez no shot.
The Rays all year have had some frustrating outs on the bases. They push the envelope, they force the issue on the opposing defense, and that will lead to some tough outs. But the Rays have added even more speed, and those guys with true game-breaking speed like Siri and Quinn can absolutely make magic happen out of certain disaster.
After all the time spent talking and stressing over the baserunning blunders, it’s fun to shine that spotlight on one of the best baserunning plays you’ll find all year.