CHICAGO – When Cincinnati Reds players and coaches returned to the clubhouse after their 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, a lot of the discussion centered around Kyle Farmer’s over-the-shoulder running catch in the eighth inning.
Jonathan India thought it was the best catch he’s seen from a shortstop this season. Manager David Bell said the clubhouse consensus was it was one of the best defensive plays they’ve seen all year.
“There is a backstory behind that play,” Farmer said.
Farmer has a flashback every time there is a low line drive in the Bermuda Triangle between left field, center field and shortstop. On March 6, 2011, when Farmer was playing shortstop at the University of Georgia, a similar play had a tragic outcome.
Converging on a low line drive, center fielder Zach Cone and left fielder Jonathan Taylor collided as they attempted to make the catch with Cone sliding and Taylor diving at full speed. Taylor’s head hit Cone’s hip, fracturing his C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, and paralyzing him from the chest down.
“Those plays, that play, whenever that ball is hit in the air, I have flashbacks from it,” Farmer said Tuesday. “Luckily, tonight I just kind of blocked it out. I grew up playing with JT and Zach since we were like 10, so I knew them really well. That play right there means a lot to make. I overcame a big step mentally there. It was difficult physically and mentally.”
The Reds held a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning Tuesday when Frank Schwindel hit a first-pitch fastball into shallow left field. Farmer sprinted backward from the infield dirt and took 10 steps before reaching out his glove and he slid onto his back.
After securing the over-the-shoulder catch, Farmer held his glove in the air for a moment before taking a sigh of relief while he lay on his back.
“You don’t know where the outfielders are,” Farmer said. “You don’t really know where the center fielder is or the left fielder is. It’s kind of like a do-or-die play and you just have to trust your instincts and go for it. It’s tough, but I just had to overcome it.”
Pitcher Michael Lorenzen raised both of his arms in the air in celebration and smiled as he tried to make eye contact with Farmer in the outfield. Center fielder Delino DeShields clapped his hand into his glove. Farmer smiled as he walked back to his position at shortstop.
“No one really knows except infielders how hard those plays are,” said India, who saw the catch from second base. “You’re worried about the outfielder coming in, taking you out. Those are do or die. You just go and if you can get it, just go for it until you hear someone call you off. That’s got to be No. 1 on SportsCenter. I think that was amazing.
“That was the best play he’s made all year. I think it was the best play a shortstop made all year.”
Farmer’s catch loomed even larger when Lorenzen gave up a solo homer to the next batter, Ian Happ. Instead of a potential game-tying, two-run homer, the Reds kept their one-run lead.
“To the eye, it’s pretty obvious that was a great play,” Bell said. “What goes into that and what’s going through your head as you’re running back for a ball, not really knowing what’s there, just trusting it and knowing where he is on the field and that awareness – just a great play.
“That was, a lot of us in the clubhouse were saying, one of the best we’ve seen.”
Farmer was drafted as a catcher by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 and he spent the next five years trying to convince coaches he could play shortstop. He ranks eighth among Major League shortstops, saving five runs this season, according to Statcast.
“He’s a gamer,” Wade Miley said. “I can’t say enough about what Kyle Farmer has done offensively, defensively, in the clubhouse. Just a great teammate, great friend and he’s a ballplayer, man. To come out, day in and day out, playing with an injury and laying it all out there every night, that’s not easy to do, and he’s done it very well.”