How Alex Bregman's brilliant throw to the plate tilted scales in Astros' favor in Game 7

The Houston Astros are going to the World Series, having defeated the New York Yankees on Saturday by a 4-0 score in Game 7 of the 2017 American League Championship Series (GameTracker). Houston will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning on Tuesday.

But before we look too far ahead at the World Series matchup, let's revisit one of the most crucial plays from Game 7. It happened during the fifth inning, when Astros third baseman Alex Bregman threw out Greg Bird, who was attempting to score and knot the game at 1-1. 

That's how the play ended -- here's how it progressed, still frame by still frame.


Before the contact

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This is right after Todd Frazier made contact. Keep in mind, Aaron Hicks is at first base and there's one out in the inning, so Bregman has to decide whether he can turn two or not. He decides he can't -- in part because the play is slow developing -- which means he can do one of two things: Concede the run and get the out at first, or get greedy and try to get the out at home while maintaining the lead.


Before the throw

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This is before the throw, obviously. Bregman had to move in and adjust to his left so he can be prepared to throw.  He does it smoothly, and gets off a strong, accurate throw.


McCann makes the catch

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MLBAM

There you see the ball coming to catcher Brian McCann's low target with Bird well away. Bird is one of the slowest runners in baseball -- he ranked 379th in the Sprint Speed metric -- and he's essentially a non-factor at this point. All McCann has to do is receive the ball cleanly and apply the tag without falling into a Willson Contreras-like trap by blocking Bird's path.


McCann applies the tag

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MLBAM

And yup, that's McCann applying the tag after the clean snare and swipe.

In retrospect, this play looks easier than it should -- and therefore less risky. Again, if Bregman's throw is a little off, or if McCann messes up, then the Yankees have two runners on board with one out in the inning and the tying run across. There's a fair chance New York tacks on another run to take the lead. At minimum, it changes the dynamic.

The Yankees did not score a run, though -- not then or at all. Instead, the Astros added three more runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, and that was more than enough. As a result, Bregman is a genius rather than an idiot. That might sound too simplistic, but that's baseball for you -- it's a make-or-mock kind of sport.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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