CLEVELAND – 14,452 fans collectively held their breath while a fly ball off the bat of Yuli Gurriel hung in the air toward the right field warning track.
The bases were loaded with two outs, adding to the suspense of a potential first inning meltdown for Corey Kluber.
Abraham Almonte peered over his left shoulder as the ball closed in on the 375-foot marker in right-center, extending his right arm to brace himself from a collision with the padded wall.
The hand-eye coordination of the 27-year-old paid dividends as the ball landed in his outstretched glove to not only end the inning, but also save the game.
To begin, here is the location of Kluber’s 3-1 fastball…
Gurriel clearly found a pitch to his liking, as shown by the 99.5-mph exit velocity, 374-foot distance (one foot shy of a home run), 23-degree launch angle and 62% hit percentage.
With Kluber likely clenching his fists and seven other defenders intently watching, Almonte did not disappoint when the spotlight found its way just in front of the lower reserved seats in right field.
Almonte’s route pattern (shown above) was direct and efficient. Shortly after making the web gem, the versatile 27-year-old fired a punch through the air in joyous celebration.
“I think if I miss that ball, maybe it’s a different story,” said Almonte. “Because everybody was running, there was two outs.”
Kluber was just as cognizant of the magnitude of the catch.
“It was a big play in the game,” Kluber said. “Obviously if we’re down two-three nothing after that, it changes things a lot. You (could) argue that was probably one of the bigger plays in the game.”
Evading the crooked number was a priority for manager Terry Francona, especially on a night where four different players notched a long shot.
“If he doesn’t catch that ball, it’s probably three runs,” said Francona. “That’s a lot to dig out from early on.”
Almonte was all smiles in the clubhouse after the game.
“I looked to my glove because I didn’t feel it when it hit my glove,” said Almonte. “When I open my glove and see it, I say, ‘Yeah, I got it.’”
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.