While the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t providing a ton of excitement this season, their Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, supplied a ton on Thursday night.
The Columbus Clippers — Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians — scored a run against Indianapolis in both the eighth and ninth inning to tie the game at 5-5. In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians answered to win the game, thanks to Jared Oliva.
Oliva hit a one-out double, then moved to third on a groundout from Oneil Cruz. That’s where things got fun.
Columbus pitcher Ben Krauth missed high on a 2-2 pitch to Indianapolis’ Canaan Smith-Njigba. Clippers’ catcher, Bryan Lavastida, checked Oliva at third but then made a high, loping throwback to Krauth. Oliva noticed this and took advantage, sprinting towards the plate in an attempted steal of home. Krauth caught the ball and threw home to Lavastida, but Oliva was too fast and slid in safely, winning the game with a walk-off steal of home.
We've been a baseball team for a long, long time.
This is one of the greatest walk-offs we've ever seen. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/MBLAVC1KBi
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) June 10, 2022
We’ve recently seen a minor-league team win a game after four consecutive batters were hit by a pitch. Dare we say, this is a little more exciting.
Baseball fans loved the aggressive, heads-up play from Oliva.
— Jake Oakman (@jakeoakman) June 10, 2022
THIS is why baserunning matters. That play doesn't happen without Jared Oliva understanding the situation and taking advantage of the opportunity. https://t.co/jbPqxo6jlH
— Dan Angell (@danangell11) June 10, 2022
That’s crazy, wow! https://t.co/5cW9HCVP2S
— Jack (@JackVV03) June 10, 2022
— Jimmy Larrabee (@JBuzz715) June 10, 2022
Shear hustle and want too!!! That's awesome! https://t.co/PnbKrqRUkB
— David Carrell (@carrelld20) June 10, 2022
There was a lot of risk involved in this play, especially given that Indianapolis was in the best part of its batting order. But while it was risky, the reward was obvious — and high. Oliva saw an opportunity to win the game and made the most of it.
Also, catchers everywhere should probably take notes on this play. If there are runners on base — especially on third base — do not make a soft throw back to the pitcher. Doing so can literally cost your team the game, as we saw here.