And now, we’re not referring to the play where the Yankees catcher tomahawked a way-too-high fastball deep and gone into left-center field to start the scoring.
Though that was ridiculous, and the team also doesn’t win without it.
No, we mean the one-out bit of magic that helped set Aroldis Chapman up to finish off a Mets team that refused to go away all night, yet another testament to New York’s resilience.
The only “easy” out Chapman secured in the ninth inning on Saturday night was the final one, a harmless James McCann pop up to Aaron Judge in right field with the tying run standing on third base. The first two outs were pure chaos, and the second of the two was saved by a Kyle Higashioka play that very few catchers make.
First came the Aaron Judge diving catch of Javier Baéz’s laser to right field on an 0-2 fastball that leaked out over the plate. Judge didn’t have to cover much ground, but he did have to react quickly and extend fully.
Then, after JD Davis’ devastating double, Kevin Pillar stepped to the plate and Chapman whiffed him on an 0-2 splitter. It did, however, take plenty of extra sauce for the out to be recorded. Every little decision counts, up to an including using your backup catcher in Game 2 after Gary Sanchez helped Game 1 unravel with a touch of insanity.
Yankees backup catcher Kyle Higashioka saved Saturday night’s win.
Kevin Pillar’s lack of instinctual hustle helped a little bit, too.
If Pillar breaks at the moment the ball escapes Higgy’s glove, he makes it to first base easily. Runners are on the corners with one out. Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, sure, but McCann’s fly ball probably scores Davis from third — and, if it doesn’t, odds are the catcher doesn’t rip a double play ball. The momentum would’ve been swirling in the Mets’ direction.
Instead, the Yankees were able to secure a much-needed win (can’t italicize that “much” enough) thanks to the type of amazing play you rarely see from a catcher. That throw! That angle! The runner had speed! Every element had to go perfectly to record the out here.
And all of this came less than 24 hours after Higashioka was a surprise participant in the Yankees’ “Players Only” meeting.
Honestly, which of those names surprised you most? Velazquez had every right to speak about what Saturday’s 9/11 memorial game would mean for him, a native New Yorker. What did Higgy say? Corey Kluber can talk?!
Regardless, New York’s backup catcher yet again came up HUGE in the newly-minted most important win of the season, and his ninth-inning save on a splitter can’t be forgotten.