NEW YORK – Gleyber Torres kept going and going and going.
No matter that a grounder by Aaron Hicks barely reached the outfield grass, Torres never stopped.
By the time Torres tumbled across home plate, he had amazingly scored from first base on an infield single, a daring dash by an infielder not known for speed.
“Incredibly heads-up play by Gleyber,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after Thursday's 7-4 loss to Houston. “I saw him racing around second, I’m like, `Oh yeah, OK.”'
If anyone had ever seen a play like this — aside from Little League, perhaps — no one could remember it.
New York had fallen behind 5-3 on José Altuve's three-run homer off Chad Green when Torres singled off Ryan Pressly leading off the eighth.
Torres spoke with first base coach Reggie Willits, who reminded him to check the defense. Torres saw the Astros shifted to the right side for Hicks, a switch-hitter batting left-handed.
Hicks hit an 84 mph, one-hopper to shortstop Carlos Correa, who tried for a backhand grab by the edge of the infield dirt.
The ball kicked off his glove and rolled just onto the grass. Third baseman Alex Bregman had put his foot on second base, waiting to receive a throw from Correa for a possible forceout.
“I saw Bregman on the base, so I saw I got an opportunity to move to third,” Torres said.
Correa picked up the ball as Torres had rounded second. Having no play, Correa held onto to ball and then flipped it Bregman, who was standing just to the shortstop side of second.
Catcher Martín Maldonado, who was responsible for covering third because of Bregman's absence due to the shift, rushed up the line and was still about 20 feet from the base by the time Torres got to third.
Torres slowed slightly, saw where Maldonado was and sped home despite third base coach Phil Nevin's stop sign. Maldonado vainly tried to chase down Torres, like a slow-moving long distance runner unable to make up ground in a marathon's final yards.
“Maldy was supposed to cover third, but Gleyber can run. Maldy was running as fast as he could to cover third and then he had to retreat,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He certainly didn't want to catch the ball on the run, then that could have been another run, and then the runner gets in scoring position."
Pressly had stayed on the mound, forgetting he had the responsibility of covering the plate when Maldonado moved toward third. Pressly kept turning around to follow the action, llooking incredulous as the play unfolded.
“I saw the pitcher stay on the mound,” Torres said. “I just kept running.”
Baker was forgiving.
“With these unorthodox defenses, which I'm not crazy about, you see plays like this,” he said.
Torres took inspiration from watching Atlanta's Ronald Acuña Jr. score from second base on a sacrifice fly and from the baserunning of San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr.
A memorable dash, though not quite as momentous as Enos Slaughter’s for St. Louis in the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox or Ken Griffey Jr.’s for Seattle against the Yankees in the 1995 AL Division Series.
And Johnny Damon alertly stole two bases on a single play for the Yankees in the 2009 World Series when a shift left the Phillies out of position.
“I saw everybody on the shift, and I just took advantage of the opportunity,” Torres said.
Boone credited Torres' alertness.
“Obviously as an infielder, he’s aware of shifts and different predicaments you can get yourself in on some different balls," he said.
And the most appreciative for Torres' effort? Hicks, probably, because he officially was credited with an RBI for a grounder that barely left the dirt.
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