Lost amid the craziness of Edwin Encarnacion's game-winning three-run bomb in the bottom of the 11th inning that propelled the Toronto Blue Jays to the ALDS was another monster play that swung the game's momentum much earlier. In the top of the 4th inning, with the Blue Jays up 1-0, the Baltimore Orioles were threatening with a runner at second and Manny Machado at the plate. Machado served pitcher Marcus Stroman's 3-1 pitch into the right-center gap, and it looked like the O's would tie the game.
That's whenKevin Pillar came in, racing 77 feet from his position in centerfield to make an incredible diving catch, robbing Machado of a sure double and keeping the Orioles runner tied to second. Pillar's catch looms even larger, as Mark Trumbo followed Machado to the plate and promptly drilled a two-run homer, giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead. It can be difficult to measure the value of a play like Pillar's, but in this scenario, it literally saved a run.
According to Statcast, Pillar reached a top speed of 18.9 miles per hour on his race to the baseball, an absurdly quick burst of acceleration that allows the Jays centerfielder to make catches like that all the time. We've shown you his outfield drone training, where a drone hovers high above him in the outfield, then drops a ball, which Pillar has to locate and catch (which he does, every single time). But he also switched up his training routine this off-season to allow his body to deal better with the punishment it takes from all those dang diving catches.
Pillar targeted his body's smaller muscles, modeling his routine after that of a baby's, which sounds super weird but makes a little more sense once Pillar explains it.
"They do a lot of things right: they know how to properly roll over, they don't allow their big muscles to dominate their bodies," he told the National Post.
Through lots of rolling and stretching, Pillar's mobility and flexibility improved in a major way during 2016, and he says his new routine has helped him feel much less sore when he wakes up in the morning after a game. Whatever Pillar is doing is working, because he just keeps on making ridiculous catches night after night.
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