PHILADELPHIA — There’s a moment that usually occurs when an outfielder in baseball makes a sensational diving, leaping or acrobatic catch, and all the stadium goes quiet attempting to discern where the ball actually went.
The silence might only last a heartbeat, but during that transient time only the fielder knows for certain.
When that player is originally from the town where he made the catch, and he understands the singular passion of the fans within the stands — because he was once certainly one of them — it’s a novel moment of power.
“I even have the ball, I’m on top of things,” Chas McCormick, explained. “It’s just how quiet the stadium was. It was top-of-the-line feelings ever.”
McCormick is the middle fielder for the Astros, but he grew up 30 miles away from Residents Bank Park, in West Chester, Pa. His clan adores the Phillies, to the extent that he has a nephew named Rolen, in honor of Scott Rolen, the star third baseman of the Phillies within the late Nineties.
Faced with a pivotal moment late in Thursday’s game, McCormick understood what it could have meant to the sellout crowd at his former local ballpark had he didn’t make the catch. However the sure-handed McCormick made the play, delivering certainly one of Houston’s two critical defensive highlights — the opposite was a run-saving play by the team’s backup first baseman, Trey Mancini, within the eighth — that helped the Astros preserve a pivotal 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the World Series on Thursday.
On a team where stars like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez are sometimes the heroes, it was two of the more unheralded players on the roster who could have saved Houston’s season.
“Unbelievable defense throughout,” said Bregman, the team’s star third baseman. “The blokes take lots of pride of their defense, and it paid off today.”
McCormick’s catch was the gem, and the image may sooner or later turn into iconic in Houston. With the Astros clinging to a one-run lead and one out in the underside of the ninth (with super Phillie Bryce Harper on deck), J.T. Realmuto, the hero of Game 1, drove a ball into the outfield. McCormick, who had vowed to himself to be aggressive, ran about 30 yards toward right field, jumped at the bottom of the wall and prolonged his glove high over his head.
As he rose up like a basketball player going for a dunk — his own analogy — the ball descended toward his glove and disappeared as McCormick slammed into the scoreboard on the side of the wall. He bounced off it and landed spread eagle on his back on the warning track, together with his glove on his right hand up within the air.
The catch was clear to anyone watching on television, but for that fast, people within the stadium, lots of whom were lots of of feet away from the motion, couldn’t tell if he had caught it. In that moment, the stadium was stunned into silence, and he loved it.
“ them, it form of like brought me back once I was 10 years old, when the Phillies lost within the World Series 2009,” McCormick said through his slight Philly accent, in a combination of sympathy and joy. “It was weird. It felt like a dream once I was laying there, taking a look at those fans.”
The play was especially vital because, had McCormick not made the catch, Realmuto, who had an inside-the-park home run in a division series against Atlanta, would have been on second base, no less than, with Harper able to crush.
“It’s an incredible catch,” said Nick Castellanos, the Phillies right fielder who has had multiple defensive highlights of his own this postseason. “Also, his willingness to sacrifice his body, because that’s not exactly a soft wall.”
Mancini’s play had much more urgency to it since the Phillies had runners on first and third and two outs within the eighth, also trailing by a run. Kyle Schwarber, who had homered in the primary inning, rocketed a ball down the primary final analysis, directly over the bottom. If it had whizzed past Mancini, the Phillies would have tied the sport and maybe taken the lead.
But Mancini, who had not played in the sphere since Oct. 5, smothered the ball on a brief hop, stepping on the bottom for the ultimate out of the inning. Asked what he was considering on the play, Mancini said there was only time to react.
“I had nothing going through my head,” he said. “I just tackled it, mainly.”
Acquired in a trade from Baltimore on Aug. 1, Mancini has struggled in his transient time with the Astros. He batted only .176 in 51 games within the regular season and is 0 for 19 within the postseason, with 4 strikeouts, including one in his only at-bat Thursday.
He only entered the sport as a pinch hitter within the eighth after Yuli Gurriel, the starting first baseman, twisted his knee while avoiding Rhys Hoskins in a rundown within the seventh. Gurriel was limping within the clubhouse after the sport and was uncertain whether he can play in Game 6 on Saturday.
Hoskins, meanwhile, was unable to make the same defensive play within the eighth, which enabled the Astros to attain their critically essential third run. Mancini and McCormick held on to their opportunities, and the silence that followed each plays created perfect harmony for Houston.
Tyler Kepner, James Wagner and Ben Shpigel contributed reporting.