- 10/1 - Bradley fields comebacker - 46%
- 4/18 - Lamb last strike homer - 30%
- 5/6 - Castillo/Ahmed throw out/tag - 12%
- 6/24 - Weeks catch at wall - 8%
- 7/2 - Castillo's clutchiest homer - 4%
Normally, single plays take place in a vacuum, but this one was made especially sweet if you are familiar with previous events. In particular, the game of April 29, 2015, when Archie Bradley was pitching against the Rockies at Chase Field. In the second inning, an offering to Carlos Gonzalez was returned with interest, streaking back into Bradley’s face like a homing missile, its speed clocked at 115 mph. Archie went down, and we all feared the very worst. Somehow, he made it off the field on his own power and, though he went to hospital, was back in the dugout by the end of the game. Fortunately for Bradley, the injury clearly looked worse than it was. But fans inevitably wondered: would that have a long-term impact on Archie mentally? In one of this season’s final games, we’d get the answer.
Stage 1: The Block
It was the penultimate game of the season, and Bradley was in the fifth inning of a game at Chase against the Padres. He was throwing well, and the offense had staked him to a 5-2 lead. But although he had two outs, there was some trouble: San Diego had a man on third, and Archie had fallen 3-0 behind Yangervis Solarte, so was one ball away from bringing the tying run to the plate. Trying to avoid that, Bradley threw a 94 mph, “get me over” fastball, but Solarte had the green light and ripped the pitch back up the middle. It appeared ticketed for an RBI single to center, and given previous events, nobody would have blamed Archie for doing a duck and cover. But instead, he somehow got his glove up and was able to intercept the ball, although all he could do was deflect it over toward third-base.
Step 2: The chase
Good effort, Archie. And 99% of players would likely have been content with that, let someone else retrieve the ball, allow the infield single and take on the next batter (after their heart-rate had returned to normal, anyway!). Not Bradley. He somehow managed to retain awareness of the ball’s location, and immediately bolted off the mound to his right, to where the ball was dying in the grass.
Part 3: The throw
This was the part which was probably the most impressive of all. Running in the opposite direction from his target at first-base, Bradley flung himself in the air, twisting and turning his body as he did so, throwing the ball while he was entirely in mid-air and also still going toward third-base. It seemed like a gesture based more on hopeless optimism than anything else, since there was absolutely no possible way the throw could both a) be on target, and b) beat the sprinting Solarte up the line.
Part 4: Holy shi...
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of throws, a two-hopper that skidded across the grass towards Paul Goldschmidt at first-base. But it was just hard enough, and more importantly, proved that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, being right on the money into Goldie’s outstretched glove. The result was the batter being beated to the bag by less than half a step and an emphatic call of out from the first-base umpire, Ryan Blakney. It was a remarkable combination of strength, speed and agility, with no small amount of instinct and guts, and is a worthy successor to the previous winners in this category.