Gonzalez got credit for the throws from the outfield that nabbed Boston’s Mitch Moreland in Game 4 of the division series and Greg Bird of the Yankees in Game 1 of the A.L.C.S. Bregman was the one who threw from third to cut down Bird in Game 7 of the A.L.C.S. and the Dodgers’ Austin Barnes on Saturday.
In both of the plays involving Bregman, there were runners on first and third with one out. Each time, Bregman fielded a grounder and threw quickly to McCann to beat the runner.
“Two first-and-third plays,” McCann said, marveling after the play on Barnes. “You don’t see that but a couple of times a year. For it to happen twice in the postseason is just phenomenal.”
The Dodgers went on to win Game 4, 6-2, to even the World Series at two games apiece. But at the time that Bregman and McCann made the play, it was a scoreless game in the top of the sixth inning.
With Charlie Morton pitching for the Astros, Chris Taylor hit a slow bouncer toward third and Bregman charged it, short-hopped the ball with his glove, exchanged it quickly into his throwing hand and threw to McCann while on the run. His throw arrived so quickly that Barnes stopped in the base path and tried to turn back toward third, but he fell and had no chance as McCann tagged him out.
Bregman then hit a home run in the bottom of the inning to give Houston a 1-0 lead that wound up being temporary.
Bregman said the foundation of the play on Saturday night was the same as the one in Game 7 of the A.L.C.S., when he gunned down Bird of the Yankees with a remarkable throw that met McCann’s glove at the exact point where Bird was sliding into the plate.
In that game, the Yankees’ Todd Frazier was at the plate with Houston leading, 1-0, in the top of the fifth inning in a decisive Game 7. Bregman looked into the Astros’ dugout at the infield coach Alex Cora, who will become the Red Sox manager after the World Series.
Cora put his finger to his head, signaling that Bregman should think before the play about what he would do if the ball was hit to him. If the ball was hit hard, he could gamble and go for an inning-ending double play while the runner at third raced home. But if the ball was hit more slowly, leaving no chance for a double play, Bregman would throw home and let McCann try to tag the runner.
Which is what he did. Frazier hit a chopper, Bregman grabbed it and threw, and Bird was out. The Astros went on to widen their lead and clinch the American League pennant.
In Saturday’s game, Bregman said, he knew there was a good chance that he would see another slow ground ball off Morton’s pitches, so he cheated a bit by moving a few steps toward the plate. But the communication with Cora was the same.
“Exact same thing,” Bregman said. “I looked into the dugout and Cora said, ‘Think.’ The thought process is, ‘Hey, if it’s not absolutely rocketed at you, let’s take the out at the plate and keep the game 0-0.’”
McCann said his role in those plays was simply to catch the ball and lay down the tag, but it is more than that. The sequences occur rapidly: With a player on the other team bearing down on him at full speed, he must look for a baseball being thrown to him while also making sure he is allowing the runner a path to the plate. Something can easily go wrong.
After all, the Yankees, who traded McCann to the Astros after last season, had considerable difficulty making these same kinds of plays in the postseason because their catcher, Gary Sanchez, could not hold on to the ball.
“I was lucky to hold on to the one with Bird,” McCann said of the play during Game 7 of the A.L.C.S. “Those guys just put it on the money, and all I have to do is tag the runner out. Marwin has a great arm and he charges the ball really well. Alex, he doesn’t hesitate even for an instant.”
Beltran agreed that what had impressed him the most about Bregman on the two throws he made to McCann was his unwavering commitment to the play — his “guts,” as Beltran put it.
Making quality throws in intense moments is not always easy. Just ask the Mets, who lost the final game of the 2015 World Series in part because their first baseman, Lucas Duda, made a poor throw to the plate that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the trying run in the top of the ninth inning.
And making quality tags at the plate in huge moments is tough, too. But McCann, Gonzalez and Bregman are pulling it off, creating an unusual subtext to the postseason with more games still to go.
Continue reading the main story