We open the voting for the first AZ SnakePit Annual Award today, with the opening category, Play of the Year. After careful consideration, we have selected five outstanding at-bats for nomination, both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. As with the "real" baseball awards, post-season games were not eligible to be taken intio consideration. You should also note that context within the game was taken into consideration, but the context of the game was not, e.g. memorable though Paul Goldschmidt's go-ahead hit in the division-clinching game was, the fact it was the division-clinching game doesn't separate it from any other go-ahead hit.
May 24th vs. Rockies: Joe Saunders tags Dexter Fowler out at home.
A blow-out loss in the double-header opener depleted the bullpen, so a strong outing from Saunders was wanted. In the third inning, with the score tied at one, and runners on the corners, a pitch squirted past Miguel Montero, and Fowler dashed home, Saunders ran to cover, and he, the runner and the ball all arrived simultaneously, but Joe applied the tag and held on, as he was bowled over. "I was just trying to focus on trying to not let him get the plate as much as he could. It's kind of a blur. I remember flipping over and then I remember my head [hitting] the ground and I was like, 'Whoa.' I just laid there, because my head was a little numb." Saunders got up, went eight, and got the W.
May 25th vs. Rockies: Chris Young's game-saving catch at the fence.
The following day, our defense robbed Colorado again. With Ian Kennedy pitching a storm, Young had already driven in the go-ahead run in the sixth, to give us a 2-1 lead, and then in the eighth, Ty Wiggington launched one to deep center, forcing Young to make a perfectly-timed leap at the fence to preserve what would turn out to be the final score. Young said, "You practice for it. It's exciting just because of the game situation.... I tried to get back to the wall as fast as I could and try to make the play as easy as I could. Sometimes guys will kind of drift to the wall and it's a little tougher to get the angle on the ball, so I just tried to get back there as fast as I could and make the play."
June 13th vs. Marlins: Gerardo Parra throws out Emilio Bonifacio at home.
I could have filled this entire list with Parra gems, and just retitled the category 'Gerardo of the Year,' and the inherent quality would barely have suffered at all. But I'll just refer you to our previous post honoring Parra, if you want more of his Gold Glove defense. This was perhaps the finest example of arms and our man in action, gunning down a runner who is among the fastest in all baseball as he tried to go second-to-home on a single. Boom went the Parrazooka, firing a bullseye to the plate, and eliminating the threat. Though the score was 12-4 at the time, the final would be only 12-9, so this play was more important than it perhaps seemed at the time.
July 21st vs. Brewers: Joe Paterson fans Prince Fielder on three swinging strikes.
Fielder was perhaps Arizona fans' least-favorite player after his Home Run Derby selection process, so it was an enormous delight to see him humiliated, just a few days later. Fielder would finish third in the MVP, and walk more than he fanned, but rookie left-hander Paterson made the Prince look like a pauper, with three delicious swinging strikes. Proof you don't need to blow past guys to get them out - none of the pitches even reached 75 mph - Paterson's dominance of Fielder was a constant them this year. After Prince singled the first time they met, Joe got him hacking the next four at-bats. In those 16 pitches, Fielder swung 12 times: 11 were misses, one a foul.
September 27th vs. Dodgers: Ryan Roberts' walk-off grand-slam.
When was the last time a player hit a walk-off grand-slam in extra innings, with his team trailing by three runs and down to their last out? Roberts hadn't even been born: it was more than 31 years ago, when Roger Freed of the Cardinals did it in the 11th inning against the Astros. Curiously, one of the last to do it during the ninth, was Arizona bench-coach Alan Trammell, in 1988. It pretty much maxes out Win Probability, the play being worth +90.2% [check out the Fangraph!]. Without the slam, Roberts' -22.0% previously would have made him God Emperor of Suck for the day. Instead, he got to imitate Cap'n Kirk as he rounded the bags. Baseball's a funny game.