For anyone who has played baseball, getting in front of the ball in the field is preached from Little League and on. And when the game is on the line and it's bases loaded with two outs, coaches normally yell, "Get dirty!" to their infielders. That basically translates to do whatever it takes to get that final out.
But Yankees 1B Greg Bird's fundamentals went out the door on Tuesday night when that exact situation arose.
With bases loaded for the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Jonathan Schoop hit a hard grounder to first. Instead of making the play, the ball ate up Bird and scooted into the outfield to end the game, 6-5, in walkoff fashion.
"It's a play I want to make," Bird told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch after the Yankees' second loss in three games against the O's. "That's the way I classify it. A big spot there. That's a play I want to come up with. He put a decent swing on it. It rode up and I didn't get [the glove] up in time. That's it."
But, Greg, you could have easily made that play if you would have stuck to the fundamental process of fielding a grounder I'm sure you learned since your playing days began. Let's take a look at the play...
Breaking it down, the exit velocity off the bat was 101 mph which is certainly above average (for comparison, Aaron Judge's average exit velocity is 96.3 mph this season). So this play, like the announcer says, isn't routine. But Bird put himself in a position to fail.
Taking a look at the slo-mo frames, we see Bird's first step is to take his right foot forward to turn sideways on the grounder. That not only leaves a pathway for the ball to get by him, but it leaves him flat-footed as well. So, as the ball takes that nasty short-hop, Bird must snag it out of the air or it's game over. He got a piece, but it wasn't enough.
The solution? You guessed it: Get in front of the ball.
Bird started to shift to his left to meet the ball, but that right foot forward killed any chance of him getting in front. By continuing to shift to his left, Bird could and should have had a better, straight-forwarded angle to corral the grounder. Even if he couldn't get the ball completely in his glove, his body would've been extra protection to knock it down, make the play at first, and go to extras.
Instead, the Yankees walked off with their heads hung low.
Unfortunately this play ruined what was a great night at the plate for Bird, who had a three-run jack and four RBI. The moral of the story: Never neglect your fundamentals, especially with the game on the line.