Alex Verdugo picked up his major-league leading seventh outfield assist on Saturday and in doing so prevented the Nationals from scoring what would have been their fourth run of the night.
On the play, the 24-year-old fielded a two-out single off the bat of Trea Turner. With his momentum carrying him towards the left-center field gap, Verdugo gathered the ball while simultaneously inching closer to home plate.
“You got Turner at the plate swinging a hot bat,” Verdugo said. “Just through the whole game I was watching his swings and he was kind of on everything. For me, I was ready for him to put the ball in play. It just felt like whatever you throw him, he’s going to hit a line drive.”
Upon transferring the fielded baseball from his glove hand to his throwing hand, Verdugo cocked back while still on the run and unleashed a laser back towards the infield.
“I had a good jump on it, a line drive right over the shortstop’s head,” he added. “I got to it quick enough to feel like I was able to throw across my body and it was just a good throw.”
On just one hop, the outfielder’s bullet of a throw reached Christian Vazquez, who had more than enough time to nab Kurt Suzuki, who was trying to score all the way from second base.
Once that final out of the top of the fifth inning was recorded, Verdugo flexed a little bit as he darted back towards the Red Sox dugout after orchestrating what would turn out to be a pivotal play in Saturday’s 5-3 win for Boston.
“I keep my throws low and a lot of times [Xander Bogaerts and Jose Peraza] are doing the hard part,” Verdugo continued. “They got to cut it and get me a couple outfield assists. But, there’s a few where I have to throw it all the way there myself. The main thing for me is to try to keep my throws low, to try to blow up the cutoff man and throw it right through his chest. Sometimes they cut it, sometimes it goes through and we get them.”
One factor that aided the Arizona native in racking up yet another outfield assist is the fact that he throws with his left hand. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he was a legitimate pitching prospect coming out of high school, either.
“For me, it just helped that I’m a lefty, too,” said Verdugo. “With that specific play, it was my glove side, so all I had to do was backhand it and I had to make sure I worked one shuffle forward toward the plate… I had a good understanding of where I was on the field. From there, it was just stop my momentum, try to make a shuffle, and get rid of it as quick as I can.”
When asked about this specific play during his postgame media availability Saturday, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke seemed rightfully impressed with the arm strength Verdugo displayed while gunning down Suzuki earlier in the night.
“That’s as good a play as you can make,” Roenicke said. “To go over that far and get that ball like he did and still be under enough control to get something on it and one-hop it home. You’re not going to see too many plays better than that.”
With his league-leading seventh outfield assist, Verdugo now has more OF assists than 27 MLB teams so far this season. Pretty impressive.