One year ago Thursday night, October 17th, 2018, the Red Sox were one out away from jumping out to a three-games-to-one lead over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.
Entering the bottom half of the ninth inning with an 8-6 lead to protect after allowing one run to cross the plate in the eighth, former Sox closer Craig Kimbrel walked three of the first five hitters he faced in the frame to fill the bases and put the winning run at first for Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman.
Heading into that at-bat, Kimbrel had thrown just 53% of his 34 pitchers for strikes and even plunked Bregman in the previous inning.
On the very first pitch he saw from Kimbrel this time around, a 97 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of the plate, Bregman ripped laced a line drive to left field, one that was falling quickly as Andrew Benintendi was closing in on it.
Per Statcast, Bregman’s liner had an exit velocity of 86.3 MPH off the bat and 79% chance of being a hit.
If that line drive were to fall in for a hit, it certainly had the potential to clear the bases and give their Astros their second win of the series.
Benintendi had different plans though, as he closed in, sprawled out, and saved the day for the Red Sox with an incredible catch for the third and final out of the contest.
According to Baseball Reference, that catch had a Win Probability added of 18%, the second-highest amount for one play in Game 4 behind only Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run home run off Josh James in the fifth inning.
“I thought I got a good jump on it,”Benintendi later said following the Game 4 win. “It wasn’t hit that hard. I thought I could catch it, I timed it up well. At that point, it was do or die.”
Later named the Associated Press’ Play of the Year for 2018, Benintendi’s game-sealing catch was an altering one, and it could have made the difference between the Red Sox eventually topping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series or getting sent home early by Houston for the second year in a row.
“It was fun. I’m glad I caught it,” Benintendi added.
It was also one of the few times we had seen Benintendi put his emotions on display while on the field to that point.
The 2019 season may not have gone the way the 25-year-old outfielder wanted it to, but the talent he displayed last October surely shows that he is more than capable of bouncing back in 2020.