Infante’s heads-up play
MIAMI — You can argue that Chris Coghlan’s diving catch that took away an extra base hit from Rick Ankiel in the first inning in Tuesday’s 3-2 win was the Marlins’ defensive play of the game.
Two more runs would have scored had Coghlan not gone all-out to make the grab.
As impressive as Coghlan’s effort was, perhaps an even bigger defensive moment came in the eighth inning.
With two outs and the score tied at 2, second baseman Omar Infante showed remarkable instincts to put an end to a Nationals threat.
Marlins reliever Clay Hensley issued a two-out walk to Jerry Hairston, and Jayson Werth followed that up with a doubled off the wall in left. Third base coach Bo Porter waved Hairston home, but out of nowhere Infante came all the way over from his second base spot to third. Hairston rounded the bag as third baseman Donnie Murphy fielded Logan Morrison’s throw from left.
After rounding third base, Hairston slammed on the brakes and attempted to go back to third, but Infante was there. Murphy tossed to Infante, and Hairston was tagged out in a run-down.
When the ball went off the wall, shortstop Hanley Ramirez ran out to be in a cutoff position, and Infante was on the left side to be in a double-cut position. But when he saw how the play was unfolding, the veteran dashed to third.
“Infante was the trailer behind Hanley,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “He smelled that play. Murphy was lined up to home plate. Infante just went to third. That was a great, heads up play. He anticipated that play.”
As the third baseman, Murphy’s job on that play is to line himself up for a cutoff and possible relay to home. So he was off third base. Murphy was pleasantly surprised to see Infante cover third.
“It was weird. I caught it, and I knew Hairston was in no man’s land,” Murphy said. “Normally, no one would be there. I was like, ‘Wow! That’s a smart play.’ I think Omar just recognized it. Obviously, it worked out.”
That type of improvisation is what the Marlins are looking for to become a better team defensively. It’s also a reason why Rodriguez has insisted on keeping Infante at second base, and not move him to third.
“That’s why we want him there,” Rodriguez said.
— Joe Frisaro