We don’t see it attempted often, and rarely is it ever executed successfully, but the Tampa Bay Rays pulled it off on Saturday.
Of course I'm talking about the No. 1 play listed on the first page of every Little League coach's playbook: The hidden ball trick.
In this case, the unfortunate victim was Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman and baseball veteran Juan Uribe, and as you can probably imagine, there's a complicated explanation that goes along with it.
The play happened in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the bases loaded — Andre Ethier on third, Uribe on second and Skip Schumaker on first — A.J. Ellis hit a flyball to center fielder Wil Myers that allowed all three runners to advance. When Myers fired the ball back into the infield, it was casually cut off by first baseman James Loney just behind the pitcher's mound.
At this moment the wheels start turning in the minds of the Rays infielders. I'm not sure if there was a subtle signal or not, but with both base runners simultaneously putting their heads down and losing track of their surroundings, Loney flips the ball to shortstop Yunel Escobar, who quickly tosses it to third baseman Evan Longoria, who at this point has positioned himself behind Uribe at third base.
Nobody on the Dodgers seems to be aware of what's going on. Certainly not Uribe or Schumaker, and third base coach Tim Wallach appears oblivious as well. All Longoria had to do then was take a couple steps toward the bag and wait (and hope) for Uribe to step off. Once he did, Longoria applied the tag and third base umpire Angel Hernandez rung him up.
According to Zachary Levine of Baseball Prospectus, it's the first successful hidden ball trick in MLB since 2007. Of course there was a close call earlier this season in San Diego when Everth Cabrera very nearly caught Pablo Sandoval napping at second base, but time had been called and the play was ruled dead by the umpires.
Unfortunately for Juan Uribe, that was not the case on Saturday, and now he has an embarrassing footnote in his career that he'll never live down. Don't believe me? Check out the photo posted on Twitter and the video posted on Instagram immediately after the game, both by Yasiel Puig.
Once the joking is over, Uribe might want to consider buying A.J. Ellis dinner. Ellis ended up losing his RBI on the play because the official scoring is a 8-3-6-5 double play. As you may or may not know, an RBI is not credited on double plays regardless of the circumstances.
But hey, on the bright side for Uribe and the Dodgers, they can hang their hats on two things at least.
1. Most importantly, they won the game 5-0 behind a strong start from Zack Greinke.
2. They caught Tampa Bay napping once, too. Or at least Adrian Gonzalez did by stealing his first base of the season.