With runners at the corners and two outs in the first inning yesterday, manager Ron Washington called for a delayed double steal. The runner on first tries to steal second in hopes of drawing a throw from the catcher, thus allowing the runner on third to break for home.
It's the type of play that has defined the Rangers this season. They have thoroughly enjoyed putting pressure on the opposition's defense, and that often has resulted in defensive mistakes. This was one of those times, giving the Rangers a lead they never relinquished as well as setting the tone for their 7-2 win.
"Opportunity seemed right, so I took a chance," Washington said. "That's the way we play. It worked and got us going."
Here are the two key decisions made by the Yankees that allowed the play to break down:
The pitch - a fastball clocked at 89 mph - was outside, a few inches off the plate. It actually was an ideal pitch for catcher Jorge Posada to attempt to throw to second, and that's what Posada did.
But should Posada have thrown to second? That's the first questionable decision here.
Posada said it wasn't his to make. "That was the call from the bench," he said.
In this situation, typically, you'll see catchers fake a throw to second in hopes of catching the runner at third base cheating home. Replays showed Andrus took off for home the second he saw Posada begin his throwing motion.
"I took a chance that the throw would be made to second base," Washington said. "If he faked it, wouldn't have happened. But he didn't fake it. So we executed.''
The run scored. Three pitches later, Cruz struck out.
For this play to work, the runner going for second doesn't run all-out as if he's trying to steal the base. Instead, he has to keep an eye on whether there's actually a throw coming from the catcher, and if there is, he has to stop and get in a rundown, giving the runner on third enough time to score before the runner on first is tagged out.
Cano's throw home was low and off-line, giving Posada no shot to tag Andrus. But they probably didn't have a play on Andrus even if the throw had been perfect.
Cano said that if he didn't think he had a chance at the plate, he wouldn't have thrown home. He also said he didn't realize Hamilton was as close to the bag as reporters said he was.
The Rangers tried the same play again in the eighth. With Mitch Moreland at third, Hamilton at first and two outs, Hamilton took off for second base. This time Posada held on to the ball, and with runners on second and third, Sergio Mitre struck out Vladimir Guerrero.