Asdrubal basks in glow of stunning double play
Indians' shortstop turns tables on fellow countryman Vizquel
CLEVELAND -- Asdrubal Cabrera broke into a wide grin and laughed. The Indians' shortstop was not about to take the bait and claim that he had, in fact, practiced the stunning defensive gem he delivered on Thursday night.
"No, no, no," said Cabrera, still smiling.
Pure and simple, it was a play of pure reaction.
A play that widened eyes and dropped jaws.
"That was sick," said Indians reliever Joe Smith.
Smith was the man on the mound -- the one whose stab at a line drive off the bat of White Sox infielder Omar Vizquel deflected the baseball -- for Cabrera's eighth-inning wizardry. The only downside to the spectacular play Cabrera fashioned was that it came at the tail end of an 8-2 loss.
Not that those involved will ever forget this one.
With a runner on first base and no outs, Vizquel -- once a defensive master at shortstop for the Indians himself -- drilled a 92-mph sinker from Smith that hung high in the strike zone. The pitcher made a desperate attempt to snare the baseball in flight but instead had it skip off his glove.
Cabrera had moved to his left to corral the sharply hit ball, but now it was sent swiftly to his right by Smith's effort.
"The way things have been going," Smith said. "I figured it was going to kick off my glove and go out into left field and I was going to have first and third with nobody out. It hit off my glove and I was like, 'Ah, man. I don't know.'"
Cabrera no longer had a prayer of catching the ball with his glove.
With that option off the table, the shortstop did the only thing he could think of -- he reached for the baseball with his bare hand.
"I thought I had a chance to catch the ball," Cabrera said.
Cabrera stopped the baseball with his right hand and, in one motion, dropped to his knees, planted his glove hand on the ground to support himself and peered over his left shoulder to see if second baseman Adam Everett was on the bag.
Everett was there, so Cabrera relayed the baseball with a behind-the-back barehanded flip.
"That was the only play I had," Cabrera said. "As soon as I saw Adam at second base, I said, 'All right, he's there.' So I threw the ball and said, 'Come on, give me help.'"
Smith was watching in disbelief from the mound.
"The next thing I just see him on his knees and he barehands it," Smith said. "And I was like, 'What is he doing?' Next thing he's going behind the back with a perfect strike to Everett on the bag. That was awesome.
"I was screaming. When I saw he barehanded it, I was screaming."
Everett would be lying if he said he saw that type of play coming.
"I was about as surprised as you can be," Everett said. "That's one of those that you don't draw up. That's just straight instincts. That was his only shot. For him to barehand it, catch it cleanly, flip it behind his back, flip a perfect feed to me, he's amazing. He's been amazing this year."
The play was only halfway to completion, though.
Everett caught the ball and stepped over second base for the first out. The second baseman then fired the baseball to first baseman Matt LaPorta to complete a highlight-reel double play. For Everett, it was easily one of the most memorable plays he has turned.
"Everything happened so fast," Everett said. "Everything just instinctively took over, and you just fire it over there and you're like, 'Holy cow. That was a pretty cool double play.' That's probably the coolest one I've ever turned."
Following the game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen -- a former shortstop and a native of Venezuela like Cabrera and Vizquel -- laughed when he was asked if he was surprised by the play.
"He's a Venezuelan shortstop," Guillen said. "What did you expect?"
Cabrera laughed when asked about Guillen's comments.
"I looked at him after the play and he started laughing," Cabrera said. "Omar Vizquel, too. They threw their arms up in the air like, 'Wow.'"
In the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field on Friday, members of the Reds were even talking about Cabrera's play.
"He has great instincts," said Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, who is also a former member of the Tribe. "I love the way he approaches the game. You can tell that he's used to doing things like that. I give him mad props for doing what he's doing."
Indians manager Manny Acta rarely admits to being surprised by strong performances, but he made an exception for Cabrera's gem.
"That was pretty nifty," Acta said. "He's very good. That's one of those things that doesn't show in all those gradings that usually don't think much of him. He's a very good shortstop.
"Terrific hands. Terrific instincts. We saw it there."
The Indians saw it for years when Vizquel suited up for the Tribe.
Like Cabrera, he also wore No. 13 for the Indians.
"Vizquel's been doing that to guys forever," Smith said. "It's about time we had a guy do it back to him, right?
"It was nice to see our No. 13 doing it."
The only question now is whether Cabrera's gem will hold up as baseball's best of the year.
For Cabrera, it was his personal favorite.
"That one last night," he said, "I think that was the best one I've had."