This was how A’s manager Bob Melvin described what it was like seeing third-base coach Ron Washington wave Marcus Semien home on the game-ending play of Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Astros:
"It’s one of those basketball shots: ‘No, no, no -- yeah!’ when it goes in," Melvin said.
Semien was on second base when Josh Reddick hit a slow chopper to the left side of the infield. Semien actually had to pause as the ball passed in front of him and got by Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena. Shortstop Carlos Correa fielded it running to his backhand just as Semien reached third base.
Semien later said he "didn’t expect to be sent right there." But Washington didn’t hesitate to wave him home on what appeared to be a not-so-straightforward decision.
"Maybe from your vantage point it wasn’t," Washington said after the game. "But I knew where Correa was. And once I saw the ball get past Valbuena, there was no doubt I was gonna do it. If (Correa) comes up and throws him out, I just look like a fool. But Marcus had a good head of speed and I wasn’t going to let him stop."
Washington explained that he saw Correa shading toward the middle of the diamond with the Astros infield playing Reddick to pull. As soon as Reddick made contact, Washington said, he read that Valbuena was not going to be able to make the play.
"To be honest with you, I didn’t even know Correa was in the picture until saw him get to the ball," Washington said.
Given that Semien was just reaching third and Correa fielded the ball two steps onto the outfield grass, holding Semien at that moment might have seemed the safer play.
"At the time you’re thinking that," Melvin said. "But then if you actually watch the play, (Correa) is off-balance, he’s got to throw on the run or in the air like he did, he’s going to have to make a good throw and he’s not going to have a whole lot on it."
Correa, perhaps surprised himself to see Semien running home, took seven or eight steps before making an off-balance throw. The throw pulled catcher Evan Gattis up the first-base line and Semien slid across safely with the winning run.
"I was running, I looked back and I saw it was a pretty big gap because of the shift," said Semien. "I knew there could be a chance he could send me. And it just worked out pretty well. I think if he makes a good throw there it’d be a pretty close play. But he had to throw it on the run and it looked like it might have cut on him a tick."
Semien said Washington was "winding me home pretty early, which is good for us base-runners so we can pick him up and just keep running." Melvin said the send was "a good call if you look at all the variables involved, and that takes experience from a third-base coach and aggressiveness."
Melvin, of course, was talking with the benefit of hindsight that Washington, in the heat of the moment, did not have.
"He had no chance to stop," Washington said of Correa. "He had to make an exceptional play. Not that he couldn’t. But he didn’t tonight."