Chess Match: Game 40
Breaking down a key moment in Monday’s 8-3 loss to the Twins…
The situation: Two outs in the fourth inning, first baseman Lyle Overbay misplays a throw from third baseman Jose Bautista on a would-be groundout. On the play, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau attempts to advance from first to third base while shortstop Alex Gonzalez hustles to cover the bag.
The decision: Overbay quickly picks up the baseball after the missed catch, sees Gonzalez with a slight lead on Morneau in the race to third base, and fires the baseball across the diamond in an effort to get the inning’s final out and stop the Twins’ rally.
The outcome: The throw is wild, allowing Morneau to score a fourth run in the inning, putting the Blue Jays behind, 5-2.
The analysis: Plain and simple, Overbay made a reaction play. Overbay is typically a sound defender — despite Monday’s debacle — and one of the first baseman’s strongest assets is his ability to throw. Overbay has made plenty of strong throws that other first basemen might hesitate to try, leading to outs in critical situations.
Prior to this play, Overbay already had two singles for the Twins that went under his glove. One of those came one hitter earlier. After then making an error on the catch — Bautista’s throw was low, but it was well within Overbay’s range — Overbay had to make a quick decision: try to throw Morneau out or hold the ball?
Under the circumstances, a strong throw and an out at third base would’ve helped make up for the first error. Also complicating matters was the fact that Overbay was having another rough day at the plate and the crowd was really letting him have it. Overbay has remained in the lineup partly due to his defense and this was a chance for him to show that skill again.
“I saw daylight on Gonzo and I threw it. But, that’s not a good play. I should’ve just eaten it and been done with it.” –Overbay
“I can’t say that [he shouldn’t have thrown the ball]. He thought he had a chance to get the guy at third base. If you think you have a chance, go for it. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re wrong.” –Manager Cito Gaston
My verdict: Overbay admitted he should have simply held on to the baseball and I completely agree. In a game like Monday’s, it’s all about damage control. Throwing across the diamond is a big risk when the play already had taken a chaotic turn with the first error. If he holds on to the ball, the Jays might escape the inning down 4-2. A two-run deficit is a little less pressure for the offense, especially one that scores in bunches.