From the same chaotic writer's room that brought you "Isiah Kiner-Falefa pitching, maintaining 0.00 ERA for the Yankees" last week, it's ... IKF in center field!
While Kiner-Falefa might not be a big-league regular anymore, and may never have had the bat to hold down the gig on a contending team in the first place, the Yankees have decided they can't live without him and his $6 million salary this season.
Now, he's primarily (???) an outfielder, and he's getting the test of his life on Thursday in the sun field.
It all began in the third inning, when Taylor Ward lifted an easy fly to center with two men on and one out.
Well, it would've been an easy fly for an experienced outfielder dealing with normal shadows. Kiner-Falefa broke back, broke forward, battled the sun, took a stab ... and caught it. Without that out, who knows whether Nestor Cortes Jr. is able to win the resulting battle against Shohei Ohtani and get out of the inning? At the very least, a run or two has scored, and he's got another out to get.
Then, the very next inning, Kiner-Falefa outdid himself, breaking back again on a Hunter Renfroe pop, but eventually full-on sprinting, then diving towards the infield, to make the catch.
Yankees center fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa had an absolute sun circus on Thursday
(The, uh, the Statcast catch probability on that play was 99%.)
This was the equivalent of sprinting back 20 yards from the line of scrimmage in Madden to confuse the defense and spring yourself for a touchdown run, but ... hey, it worked! The less we see of it, the better, but the out was recorded. That's more than you can say for Aaron Hicks' journey into the sun field in Cleveland last week.
Say what you will about the first two catches, though. The third was sterling, by any calculation. The Angels put up two runs in the fifth inning, the second of which came on what really should've been a two-run double in the gap to set up Ohtani -- if not for IKF's backhand.
Add Kiner-Falefa's pitching stats, and suddenly, his 2023 contributions to the Yankees have become a pretty impressive sideshow.
Tune in next week, when IKF attempts his most daring feat yet: recording a hit, something he's only done three times this season.