Shane Victorino had a decision to make in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game. A lot went on in his head in a short amount of time.
Junichi Tazawa entered in the eighth with the Red Sox leading 2-1, and he yielded back-to-back singles to Marco Scutaro and Brandon Belt to set up runners at the corners with one out. Buster Posey then lifted a fly ball in foul territory down the right field line that resulted in a game-tying sacrifice fly. Victorino didn’t have much of a chance to throw out Scutaro at the plate, so it opened up a debate as to whether or not Victorino should have let the ball drop foul instead of making the catch.
Given that everything happened so fast, it’d be understandable if Victorino was simply acting as he normally would on a fly ball in his direction. The Flyin’ Hawaiian understood all of the variables involved, though, and his decision to catch the ball was a calculated one.
“When I ran over to catch the ball, I knew the situation and I thought about it, before the play even, actually,” Victorino told reporters following Tuesday’s game. “You think about these scenarios. When the ball was hit it was actually foul and it pushed back into play. Now if I let that fall, is it going to end up fair? Will I look like a fool? When the ball was hit I went over there to catch it and I said to myself, ‘Hopefully I can get off a good throw.’ I tried the best I could. I didn’t get the out. But I don’t ever want to look back at that moment when it’s going on and say, ‘Darn, I should have let that ball fall.’ Yeah, after the play was done with he scores and I can think about those type of situations and think about if the scenario comes up again. But in that situation I have no intention of letting that ball fall.
“If it’s a 2-2 ballgame, it might be a little different. I’ll let that ball fall and hopefully we get a double play [and it's still] 2-1. I know who’s at the plate. I’ve seen him come up with big hits before. He’s not an MVP for no reason. He’s won two World Series. All those kind of things. I gave him credit. I’m not going to let that ball fall and turn into something worse.”
Tazawa struck out Hunter Pence to end the eighth inning, sending the game into the ninth with the score tied at two apiece. If the Red Sox had eventually secured a victory, we wouldn’t even be talking about Victorino’s play in foul territory. But because the Giants eventually won the game 3-2 when Scutaro walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, we’re left wondering if things would have turned out differently had Posey’s eighth-inning fly ball dropped foul.
“I’m sure everyone was going to ask that same question. I thought about it, too. I really did, after the play was done and I threw the ball, Scutaro crossed and I said to myself, ‘Shucks, should I have let that fall,'” Victorino said. “I look at it this way, if I had let that fall, now he goes up there and hits the ball in the gap. That’s the kind of stuff where I always sit back and look at and I say, you know, you can always second guess it or you can think differently after the play was done, but when I was on the move over there, I told myself to catch the ball and try to get in the best position I could to make a throw. I had no second guess while the play was going on. After the play was done, I thought about it and I even asked [Dustin] Pedroia after the inning, ‘Should I have let the ball fall?’ And he said it might have been close. It might have ended up fair, and I said, ‘OK.’ But you know, those are all the kind of scenarios that pop through your head. But I had no intentions at all of doing that.”
While we all stew on Victorino’s decision a little bit longer, let’s also keep in mind that Victorino smacked a home run in the third inning to put the Red Sox up 2-0 at the time.