Exotic plays are becoming the norm when Angels are playing

Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons throws to first base during a game.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, shown above, teamed up with second baseman Tommy La Stella to turn around a pretty unique double play against the Dodgers in Tuesday’s exhibition game.
(John McCoy / Getty Images)

The increase in exaggerated and sometimes exotic infield shifts have led to more unorthodox plays, like the one the Angels saw Monday night in Petco Park, where San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado fielded Matt Thaiss’ fourth-inning shot in medium right field and made a long throw to first for the out.

The play was marked “5-3” in the scorebook because the third baseman threw to the first baseman for the out, but Machado was more than 200 feet away from his usual third-base position—he looked more like a second right fielder—when he fielded the ball.

The Angels were on the delivering end of an equally peculiar — and dazzling — effort Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium, where shortstop Andrelton Simmons and second baseman Tommy La Stella combined to turn a nifty double play to end the fifth inning.

With runners on first and third, one out and the left-handed-hitting Corey Seager up for the Dodgers, Simmons shifted to the second-base side of the bag and La Stella moved toward the hole between first and second.


Seager ripped a hard grounder right at Simmons, a ball that La Stella probably could have fielded with a back-hand stab had he tried. But instead of going for the ball, La Stella headed directly to the second-base bag, looking like a receiver on a crossing route in front of his shortstop.

Simmons fielded the ball to his left just as La Stella passed in front of him and led La Stella with a soft underhand flip that was so perfectly timed, La Stella didn’t break his stride as he caught the ball.

La Stella took a few more steps toward second, hit the bag with his right foot for the first out and, with his momentum carrying him toward the shortstop position, made an off-balance throw to first to complete the double play.

“It was a great turning of a double play from an awkward setup,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after a 6-4 exhibition loss to the Dodgers in which La Stella, Albert Pujols and Brian Goodwin each hit solo homers. “It was a great flip by Simba and an impossible turn by Tommy.”

Maddon managed in Tampa Bay from 2006 to 2014, and his teams were among the first to employ extreme infield shifts. He recalled the Rays turning double plays from a similar formation, but perhaps not with the flair that Simmons and La Stella displayed Tuesday night.

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“I’ve seen it,” Maddon said. “When we first started shifting heavily years ago in Tampa Bay, that play came up, but the way Tommy completed it was pretty spectacular.”

Maddon said he did not know if La Stella had considered going for the ball or if he instinctively knew to go to the bag and let Simmons field it.

“I think Tommy knew that Simba would be right on the money, so his job was to get to the bag and see what he could do,” Maddon said. “Simmons’ great flip made that play happen.”