On Thursday, Bautista recorded only the 29th 9-3 assist in MLB since 1990 after fielding Billy Butler's sizzling one-hopper to right field and throwing him out by a step at first base. Based on those odds, the likelihood of seeing another play like it again in MLB this season would be very small, and perhaps even smaller considering that Diamondbacks right fielder Gerardo Parra already recorded a 9-3 assist in April.
In spite of what the odds might suggest, history did repeat itself just 24 hours later. And incredibly, it happened in the same ballpark, with the same two teams playing, and with same the right fielder recording the assist as Bautista threw out Royals second baseman Omar Infante. However, the circumstances this time around were much different.
In the seventh inning, Infante fought off a J.A. Happ pitch and blooped it down the right field line, and for some reason assumed the ball was going to land foul. Rather than running the play out, he actually turned his back and started walking away from home plate before someone alerted him that the ball was going to land fair.
All the while Infante was trying to figure out what to do, Bautista was stuck in his own tough position. He had a long way to run and risked the ball bouncing beyond him and into the right field corner if he played it too aggressively. With a runner already at first base, that would have resulted in a sure run, so he was forced to dive at the last second in an attempt to smother the baseball, which he did successfully.
Impressively, he was able to gather the ball quickly, and then his instincts took over again as he rose to a knee and fired a perfect one hop throw to first to get the straggling Infante by five steps.
After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost confirmed that Infante thought the ball was foul, but didn't add any further details such as what exactly gave Infante the impression it was going foul. He did, however, heap a ton praise on Bautista for his effort.
''I don't know if you'll see a better play in baseball today than that play right there,'' Yost said. ''Omar hit the ball and lost it, he thought it was foul. For Bautista to come, smother the ball, one, and then still see that he had a play at first base, I don't think I've ever seen a play like that. Tremendous play.''
It was a wild play that was notable in its own unique ways, beginning with Infante's reaction and ending with Bautista's pursuit and assist. That it happened 24 hours after Bautista's first 9-3 assist makes it a coincidence that only makes sense in baseball.
And even then, it really doesn't make sense. It's just like the Penn State baseball team turning two triple plays in the same game. The odds are so strongly against it, it just seems impossible. But baseball always has a way of showing us that nothing is impossible, and that every pitch and every play matters in some way.
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