Keyvius Sampson did everything he’s supposed to as a hitter. He didn’t get overanxious or try to do too much with Francisco Liriano’s fastball right down the pipe. Instead, the Reds rookie pitcher gave it an inside-out swing and sent it cleanly through the right side of the infield.
The swing really was a thing of beauty. The result, on the other hand, not so much. What looked like Sampson’s first career hit and RBI, was quickly turned into an inning-ending out when Pirates’ right fielder Gregory Polanco charged and came up firing, throwing out Sampson at first base.
That’s the ol’ 9-3 putout, which doesn’t happen too frequently at the major-league level, but has been recorded twice by Polanco in the last three weeks. He also got Chicago Cubs pitcher Trevor Cahill during a game on Sept. 14.
Since 1990, there has been 32 such putouts recorded in MLB. Amazingly, Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista recorded two of those on consecutive days last season. Now Polanco’s done it twice in under three weeks. Historically, though, it’s a rarely attempted throw, let alone successfully completed. But if anyone has the arm to pull it off, it’s Polanco.
Friday’s assist gives him 13 on the season, which ranks second only to teammate Starling Marte’s 15. With Andrew McCutchen manning center field, this is one tough outfield to run on. They also cover ground quickly, meaning opponents have to earn their hits.
Unfortunately for Sampson, he was the victim of both those factors. Positioning played a role as well, but Polanco closed in a hurry and fired a strike without hesitation, almost as if he’d been anticipating that moment. Perhaps he has, which means opponents should be aware anytime they rocket one in his direction.
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