Let there be no doubt what the finest defensive play in Major League Baseball was on Wednesday night. In the fourth inning of their 5-1 victory over the Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Ben Zobrist teamed up to turn an incredibly smooth and absolutely flawless double play that had a very high degree of difficulty and almost no margin for error.
The spectacular double play came with Dustin Pedroia at the plate and Shane Victorino running at first. Pedroia hit a sharp grounder up the middle that appeared ticketed for center field. However, Escobar was able to to flag it down on the move, and with his momentum carrying towards center field and away from the bag, he made the instantaneous decision to flip the ball behind his back with his glove to the awaiting Ben Zobrist.
That's a strong start. But it got even better as Zobrist receives the perfect throw cleanly with his bare hand, and then turns to make a strong and accurate throw to first to complete the double play.
No hiccups. No second guessing. Zero hesitation. And the end result is your basic 6-4-3 double play where the glove and the hand change roles without a glitch.
It really was as good as it gets. And perhaps the most beautiful part is it was done out of necessity rather than showmanship. You can't even argue that Escobar would have been wiser to play it safe and throw to first, because even then it would have been an equally dangerous off balance or even spin throw. It was simply instincts and trust that Zobrist would do his part, and he did.
Defensive baseball at its best.