The Case for Catch of the Year

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The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros opened their second and final series of the season with a pair of extra-inning games Monday and Tuesday night, and a pair of Nationals wins. But despite the apparent similarities, the defining plays of these two contests could not have been more different. We have already chronicled Houston’s defensive lapse from the 11th inning on Monday night that led to the game-winning run. However, to fairly and accurately chronicle the importance of Roger Bernadina’s jaw-dropping, game-saving catch for the final out of Tuesday night’s contest, we must look at it in the larger context – as a frontrunner for catch of the year in Major League Baseball.

Humor us, if you will. Watch the video below, no matter how many times you’ve already seen it, just so the play is fresh in your mind. Then, as we take you through our five reasons, we encourage you to read through each point individually, then watch the video again. By the end, you can tell us if you also believe that what the Shark reeled in last night was more impressive than any other catch made this season, including Mike Trout’s now legendary leap (video also below, for comparison).

Catch of the Year…Roger Bernadina

Or Mike Trout

1. The Amount of Ground Covered

Well positioned before the pitch, just to the left side of second base, Bernadina nevertheless had to run full tilt deep into the left-center field gap and leap, arms extended into the awkwardly shaped façade in front of the Nationals bullpen. But it’s not like he had time to set himself underneath the ball and try to time his leap – it was all on the run.

2. The Ballpark

Minute Maid Park is…unique. From the notoriously easy-to-reach Crawford Boxes in left field to Tal’s Hill in center field that rises behind the warning track and includes a foul pole in play, it is easy to forget the minefield that awaits outfielders in left-center. As you can see in the photo to the right, the angle of the wall changes every few feet, often causing awkward caroms and general confusion for visiting players trying to decide how to pursue fly balls in the area. Bernadina disregarded all of that, threw caution to the wind, and literally threw himself into one of the recesses of the wall, emerging with the ball.

3. The Game Situation

This cannot be overstated. After Washington had finally broken through in the top of the 12th with the first run scored by either team since the second inning, the Astros had the tying run at second and the winning run at first with two outs in the bottom of the frame. If Bernadina does not come up with that ball, the Astros not only tie it, they likely win the game on that play, with the runner on the move in the two-out situation. It’s that simple – the catch was literally the difference between a win and a loss. When is the last time you’ve seen that in a game?

4. Steve Pearce/Craig Stammen

You can tell the significance of any play in the game as much as anything by the reaction of the other players on the field. Steve Pearce was the runner at second on the final play Tuesday night, representing the tying run. Check him out on the replay (0:57), fist raised in triumph as he heads towards third base, confident he is watching a game-ending play of an entirely different nature.

Meanwhile, Craig Stammen stood in the Nationals bullpen, just on the other side of the chain link fence from where Bernadina came crashing into the cutout. After the Shark came away with the ball, watch Stammen (at 0:11 and again at 1:03) jumping around, fists raised like a kid in the stands. Sure, Tyler Clippard’s primal scream and Jayson Werth’s bear hug speak volumes as well, but nothing matches Stammen’s unbridled joy from the ‘pen.

5. The Pennant Race

Oh yeah, the pennant race. As hot as the Nationals have been since the All-Star break, winning 14 of their last 18 games (including last night), the Atlanta Braves have kept pace. Washington held a four-game lead at the break, a mark that had not been matched until they were stymied by Cole Hamels and, some time later, Brett Wallace’s walk-off bid came to rest in Bernadina’s mitt. For the second time in four days, the Nationals have added to their division lead, and once again own the best record in baseball at 67-43. None of these things would be true if not for Bernadina’s catch.

Still want more on the Shark’s heroics? The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg also did a great job of capturing some of the initial reactions – on the field, in the clubhouse and around the Twitter-sphere.

8 Comments

Great article! It was an incredible catch. The Shark should win this one, hands down. One small quibble, I believe you meant “feet” not “feat,” though it was certainly quite the feat of athleticism (in the sentence: “As you can see in the photo to the right, the angle of the wall changes every few feat”).

Or did we…? Just kidding. Nice catch (fixed), glad you enjoyed it.

While Bernadina’s catch was other-worldly, Gregor Blanco’s catch saved a perfect game. I think you have to take into account what the catch does for the team. But, between Bernadina’s and Trout’s–Bernadina wins hands down.

Anything I can do for the team! Speaking of, are you guys still looking for a great copy editor?

I don’t see how Trout’s catch was all that impressive. Yes, he did rob the other team of a home run. But that happens all the time when the outfield walls aren’t that high. Even Xavier Nady did that earlier this year in Boston. Now, if someone caught a ball over the fence in center field of Nats Park, that would be impressive because it requires quite the jump. But Trout’s jump was not that high. Especially when you account for the game situation, Bernadefense wins by a landslide.

Beautifully written article! Very enjoyable read!

the Trout catch was nicer… but I just don’t understand how anyone can consider any catches made this year even remotely close to as good as Rajai Davis’ catch against the Yankees. The 5’9” guy scales a 10 foot tall wall perfectly. I was about 50 feet away, and I’ve never heard a crowd louder than it was then. 20 minutes later we were still chanting Rajai’s name

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