Ryan's hustle leads to unique basepath jaunt
Shortstop motors to third thanks to heads-up play on infield single
SEATTLE -- Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan caught the A's napping in the first inning Tuesday night in a 4-2 victory with one of the more unusual baserunning plays imaginable, as he wound up at third base on an infield single.
Ryan beat out a grounder to shortstop Eric Sogard and was behind first baseman Conor Jackson as Jackson held the ball while facing the pitching mound. When Ryan saw no one covering second, with Jemile Weeks having gone over to back up first base, he took off and slid in safely at second without even drawing a throw.
Ryan then popped up and headed for third, seeing third baseman Scott Sizemore had run over toward second and no one was near the bag at third, either, as Jackson continued holding the ball with no one to throw it to.
Thus Ryan wound up with what essentially was an "infield triple," though the official scoring on the play was a single, with the runner advancing to third on a fielder's choice.
"When you get a ball past the third baseman over there and it's a ball the shortstop is going to dive for or backhand, the second baseman is often backing up first," Ryan said. "So if you can get past the first and second basemen, you've got second base open. So I looked for it and it looked like nobody saw me. So I just took off.
"Then when I got to second it looked like the closest person to third was right next to me, and I figured if I get past him, I've got third," he said. "Then I almost died, but I didn't. So I got back up and I looked at home and I saw [catcher Kurt] Suzuki flying home, and dang, too bad he couldn't trip and fall or something. I don't know if I would have made it, but it would have been pretty fun to crawl home and score on that."
Ryan pulled off a similar play earlier this year, taking second on an infield single against the Tigers on June 9 in Detroit, when he noticed the second baseman had drifted over toward first after his ground ball had taken the shortstop deep into the hole.
"I've done second a few times, but not two [bases]," he said. "It's really just a wacky opportunity that presented itself and I was just looking for the next bag and was able to get it. Of course, [Mike] Carp made me look better by driving me in, otherwise we're probably not talking."
The next batter, Dustin Ackley, walked before Carp delivered a two-run double, giving the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
The A's were understandably red-faced.
"Heads-up play on his part," said Jackson. "I don't even know what to say. I've never seen anything like that. That's a first. I turn around and he's halfway to second and no one's there. I didn't want to throw it, with no one out there, and then he gets all the way to third base."
"I don't know," said pitcher Rich Harden. "I can't say I've ever seen anything like that. It's kind of embarrassing."
Sogard, the shortstop who started the play, wound up getting caught in the middle of all of it.
"That was something I've never seen before, that's for sure," he said. "I tried to make a play in the hole and he's safe at first. I know Sizemore is running over there, too, and I saw him take off for second, so I think we both started going that way and didn't really think about third, and then sure enough he's headed there, and no one's there.
"It's unfortunate, and they ended up scoring on that," Sogard said. "It's something we'll learn from and definitely won't happen again, that's for sure. It's definitely good baserunning, but we should be there. We should be able to defend that."
Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez called the play "awesome," and said it fired up the his squad, which went on to a win that gave Seattle its first series victory since beating the A's back in the first week of July.
"I didn't know what was going on," said Mariners left fielder Casper Wells. "It seemed kind of like a Little League play or Bad News Bears kind of play, where guys were out of position and he was just running around."
When it was all done, Ryan wanted to know how the official scorer ruled the play, figuring he should at least get a couple stolen bases for his efforts instead of a single and two fielder's choices. But mostly he was just glad the whole thing worked in the end.
"I was dragging my shin guard around behind me and I didn't feel all that coordinated," he said. "Boy, when I got to like the [shortstop] hole I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I don't have another gear'. I was just glad I made it."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Jane Lee contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.