ST. PETERSBURG— Let's set the scene: The Tigers have runners on first and second Wednesday with no outs in the top of the sixth inning, trailing the Rays by a run.
Catcher James McCann is on second base. Left fielder Andrew Romine is on first. At bat is center fielder JaCoby Jones.
The Rays expect a bunt, so third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Logan Morrison are going to charge — or crash — home plate. Shortstop Tim Beckham runs to cover second. Second baseman Brad Miller runs to cover first.
Jones squares to bunt, and here's what happened:
Pitcher Danny Farquhar: "He bunts the ball up in the air (toward third base), and I was like, 'Sweet! I'm going to get an out here.' Longoria lets the ball drop."
Longoria: "I knew that I could catch it, but I figured the base runners would have to freeze, anyway. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jones wasn't running initially out of the (batter's) box, so I knew that we wanted to get the one out at second base and figured we had a pretty good chance if all went well to turn the double play."
Miller: "Probably one of the most heads-up baseball plays you'll see, knowing that he can't touch the ball first or the umpire would call 'dead.' He knew what he was doing right away. He was going to keep it close. He was going to turn two. Pretty incredible."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus: "It was pretty basic. It was bunted in the air, which I know you don't want. A veteran third baseman took advantage of the opportunity. When the ball was in the air I knew Longoria was going to do it, and then JJ didn't get down the line. As simple as that."
Longoria: "I was a little nervous. That's why I tried to sidesaddle (the ball as it landed) and keep it in front of me, but the turf has actually been playing pretty well. It's been playing pretty true. The reads are pretty true in terms of the way the ball is spinning and how it's going to bounce. I was pretty confident I would be able to keep it close. But even if it went slightly awry we would be able to get the out at second base and keep the double play in order."
Farquhar: "Completely catches me off guard. I talked to Beckham. Completely catches him off guard. And I don't even know what (Longoria is) going to do. Is he going to run and step on third? He throws it to second, and I thought for a second Beckham was going to throw it to me at third to get McCann."
Beckham: "JaCoby wasn't running. I saw him out of my peripheral as I was taking the throw from Evan that he wasn't running, and I thought we had a chance to turn it."
Miller: "I was just trying to catch the ball. Really, just try to keep it from going past me because the run would score."
The Rays turn the double play with Miller stretching for the throw at first, catching the ball just before Jones gets to the bag. That's 5-6-4 if you were scoring at home.
Ausmus: "I don't know whether (Longoria) saw that JJ didn't get out of the box. I actually thought he might do it, let it bounce, run to third and get McCann. They were a little bit fortunate in the fact JJ didn't run."
Farquhar: "It was so heads up. I asked Longoria, 'That's why you make the big bucks, huh?' And he said, 'Yeah.'"
Longoria: "We have put that play on and got the guy at second base plenty of times, but it doesn't always present itself that way. He popped up. I was right there. He was kind of enough in my vision that I could tell that he didn't initially bust it out of the box. It's a tough play as a hitter, because you're so upset at yourself that you popped it up that you know that it could get caught, you get caught in the moment and just freeze. Thankfully it worked out to our benefit at the time, but it's also a lesson to us. If you do pop up, make sure you get down the line."
Ausmus: "The truth is, if Jones is running from the get-go, he doesn't get two. It's as simple as that."