Polanco's catch highlights night of great D
Third baseman's incredible dive invigorates Phils in victory
NEW YORK -- Even as the foul pop by Nick Swisher tailed away from him, and the tarp along the stands in left field was fast approaching, Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco figured he should at least make an effort to catch the ball. He may have been the only one in Yankee Stadium who thought he had a chance.
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Polanco went for it. He sprinted, sprawled across the tarp, extended his left arm and came up with the catch -- a crucially clutch defensive play with two outs in the sixth inning of Philadelphia's 7-1 win over the Yankees on Thursday.
"[The ball] kept going away from me," Polanco said. "I was going to try. I was going to make an effort. That's a good feeling. They could have scored a run or two easily there."
At the time, the score was 3-1 and the Yanks had runners on first and third with Swisher up. Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who had been sensational to that point, was facing his first -- and only -- bout of adversity.
But Polanco bailed him out, and simultaneously reinvigorated the Phillies, who added four runs in the ninth to go on to win handily.
"If I don't make that play, he gets another chance," Polanco said.
Polanco, who switched back to playing third base when he signed with Philadelphia in the offseason after winning two Gold Glove Awards at second base for the Tigers, has made only four errors in 51 games there this season. But no play has stood out more than the one on Thursday.
"I was really surprised," Phillies shortstop Wilson Valdez said. "It was an unbelievable play for him. I think it was one of the best plays of the year."
"He made a great defensive play catching it on the tarp," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You never know, if Swish gets another swing, maybe things change. But it didn't happen."
It was one of several spectacular defensive grabs by the Phillies on Thursday evening. Right fielder Jayson Werth made a sprawling catch on a sinking line drive by Robinson Cano in the fourth inning to rob a hit. First baseman Ryan Howard leapt to snatch a hard liner by Brett Gardner in the seventh. And reliever Jose Contreras snagged a comeback ground ball by Curtis Granderson behind his back in the eighth.
Polanco's play, though, served as a defining moment and perhaps a game-changer. The count was 1-1 to Swisher, who is batting .379 with runners on base, fourth in the Major Leagues. Upon seeing Polanco emerge off the tarp with the ball in his grasp, Kendrick skipped off the mound, yelling and pumping his fists.
"That was huge," Kendrick said. "I was pretty excited, if you couldn't tell. That was a big play. We were in a jam there, I needed to make a pitch. For me, that was definitely the play of the game."
Polanco had a big smile on his face, too. The play was slightly reminiscent of another famous catch along the left-field line in the old Yankee Stadium by Derek Jeter in 2004, though Polanco laughed when the comparison was brought up.
"Come on, it wasn't that good," Polanco said. "Jeter dove like into the third row. It was a good play, but not that good."
All comparisons aside, it was good enough for the Phillies on Thursday, who seemed to make all the right plays to finish the series strong in New York.
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.