Rare is the pitcher who's been able to keep Randy Arozarena of the Rays in check this postseason, so Yankees fly-catcher Brett Gardner decided to take on the mission himself. In the sixth inning of Friday night's decisive ALDS Game 5 (NYY-TB GameTracker), Arozarena appeared to have homered off New York ace Gerrit Cole to break a 1-1 tie.
However, Gardner out in left field was unwilling to accommodate:
That left Arozarena's bat at 99.6 mph and with a launch angle of 38 degrees. That launch angle is a little higher than optimal, and in this instance it was probably high enough to get caught up in the San Diego evening marine layer. Arozarena appeared to think it was gone off the bat, but that turned out to be not the case by a hairsbreadth or so.
Anyhow, that's not the typical home run robbery, as Gardner didn't undertake the usual sort of sky-scraping leap we associate with home run thefts. The Petco Park fencing in left isn't all that tall, which no doubt helped Gardner pull off the clutch snare with some degree of nonchalance. Understated or not, Cole was equal parts awed and appreciative back on the mound:
Cole was making the Game 5 start on short rest, and Arozarena would turn out to be his final batter. Of particular note is that the catch by Gardner helped him make a bit of history:
Gerrit Cole: 1st pitcher in MLB history with 9+ K and 1 Hit or fewer allowed in a postseason winner-take-all game.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 10, 2020
As for the 37-year-old Gardner, he's long been a defensive asset, and this surely numbers among his most memorable plays afield.