Trayce Thompson recorded the putout, the Dodgers center fielder leaping to the top of the wall to make a spectacular, potential game-saving catch in the ninth inning of a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins before a crowd of 50,431 in Chavez Ravine on Friday night.
Credit Daryl Boston with the assist.
Boston is a former big-league outfielder who is currently the first-base coach for the Chicago White Sox, but he was the organization’s minor league outfield coordinator when the White Sox selected Thompson, a former Santa Margarita High School standout, in the second round in 2009.
“Every day after I got drafted, we’d be out there working on stuff, working on balls off the wall, working on ground balls, throwing guys out at home, so you know, he’s my guy,” Thompson said of Boston. “I still keep in contact with him pretty regularly. I’m sure he’ll text me when he sees that play.”
Thompson, making his eighth start of the season in center field, already had made a significant contribution with his bat, roping a two-out, run-scoring double down the left-field line to tie the score 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the eighth on a quirky fielder’s-choice grounder by Will Smith, and with regular closer Craig Kimbrel down after pitching in three of the previous five games, manager Dave Roberts handed the ball to setup man Evan Phillips to start the ninth.
Nick Fortes led off with a drive to deep center. Thompson raced back to the warning track and made a leaping catch to rob the designated hitter of extra bases. Phillips got the next two outs for the save to help the Dodgers improve their major league-best record to 82-36 and win for the 37th time in 45 games.
“I think it would have gone off the wall [if I didn’t catch it], but I didn’t think it was going over,” Thompson said. “It felt good. As an outfielder, any ball at the wall you can pull down, it’s a good feeling to help your pitcher out.”
How tough of a play is that when you’re not playing regularly?
“Well, I mean, that’s why you prepare before the game,” Thompson said. “Batting practice for an outfielder is the biggest thing, in my opinion. And I feel like Doc [Roberts] has done a good job running me out there quite a bit, so you know, I feel like I was prepared.”
Thompson, the brother of NBA star Klay Thompson, has bounced around to six different teams in the last five years, but he is carving out a more prominent role in his second stint with the Dodgers with his strong play.
“He’s a clutch player,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy who has been around for quite some time and really has an understanding now of who he is as a big-league ballplayer. And he just has that ability to slow the game down. It’s probably the bloodlines.”
The score was tied 1-1 when Mookie Betts, who had three hits, led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple to right. Trea Turner grounded out to third, Betts holding, and Freddie Freeman was intentionally walked.
Smith hit a grounder to the left of Miami third baseman Jon Berti, who didn’t think he had time to throw to second to start a potential double play. So Berti turned and looked toward the plate, where … nobody was home. Literally.
Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings, thinking the play would be on the infield, had vacated the premises. He was straddling the dirt circle on the first-base side of the plate, allowing Betts to waltz home with the winning run.
“We got little fortunate, you know, with that fielder’s choice off Will Smith’s bat,” Roberts said.
Tyler Anderson gave up one run and five hits in seven strong innings, but Thompson’s seventh-inning hit took him off the hook for a potential loss.
Anderson had blanked the Marlins on three hits through six innings before giving up a leadoff double to Stallings in the seventh. After getting Charles Leblanc to pop out to first and striking out Peyton Burdick, Anderson caught too much of the plate with an 0-and-2 changeup that rookie Jerar Encarnacion drove to left-center for a double and a 1-0 lead.
It was short-lived.
Justin Turner led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to center off Miami starter Jesus Luzardo.
Chris Taylor struck out, and Marlins manager Don Mattingly pulled Luzardo in favor of left-hander Steven Okert, who struck out Hanser Alberto for the second out.
But Thompson lined a double just inside the left-field line and into the corner. Miami appeared to have a good shot at Turner, who was waved home by third-base coach Dino Ebel, but Encarnacion overthrew cutoff man Miguel Rojas, and Turner scored without a play for a 1-1 tie.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.