Rays-Astros: Tampa Bay defense key in ALCS Game 3 win - Sports Illustrated

The Rays Put on a Defensive Clinic in Game 3 Win Over Astros

In Wednesday’s Hot Clicks: the best plays the Rays made as they took a 3–0 lead on the Astros, Mark Melancon’s improbable feat and more.
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Some good, old fashioned web gems

In baseball’s current era that prioritizes the “three true outcomes” (walks, strikeouts and home runs), it feels like we see don’t see as much great defense. It’s not that guys aren’t making great plays, just that fewer balls in play means fewer opportunities to make a highlight catch. 

Well, fans of good defense were treated to plenty in Game 3 of the ALCS between the Astros and Rays. Tampa Bay won 5–2, with both of the Houston runs coming on solo homers. Basically everything else the Astros hit ended up in the glove of a Rays player. 

If there’s one thing the average baseball fan knows about the Rays it’s that Kevin Kiermaier is probably the best defensive centerfielder in the game. (Division rival Jackie Bradley Jr. is really his only competition.) He showed why he’s worthy of that reputation on Tuesday night. 

He wasted no time getting the show started, making a leaping catch at the wall in the first to rob Alex Bregman of extra bases. 

In the third, he saved at least one run with a diving grab on a ball off the bat of Carlos Correa. 

Kiermaier, unfortunately, had to leave the game after being hit by a pitch on the wrist in the sixth, but he wasn’t the only Rays player flashing the leather. In the fifth, shortstop Willy Adames tracked down a ball deep in the hole and made a strong throw to first, where Yandy Díaz made a nifty pick. 

The Rays made two stellar plays in the seventh. First, pitcher John Curtiss dove off the mound to snare a chopper and threw quickly to first, where Díaz made another nice play. 

Nine times out of 10 you’re better off letting the shortstop make that play, but it looked cool as hell. 

For the final out of the inning, Hunter Renfroe made a diving grab that caused George Springer to slam his helmet in disgust. 

Renfroe was back at it again in the next inning, making a sliding basket catch that left the bases loaded for the Astros. 

Without those plays, you’re looking at a very different game. If the Astros had gotten a couple of those balls to fall in, they might not be staring at a 3–0 series deficit. But now the Rays are on the precipice of a World Series berth, their first since 2008 and only their second in franchise history. They might not have the star power of the Yankees or Astros—only three Rays players had non-prorated salaries of over $5 million this season—but if they close out the Astros and continue to make plays like that in the field, they should deliver an entertaining World Series. 

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Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.