BOSTON - The play of the year began innocently enough during the fourth inning of Wednesday's 5-1 Rays victory when Dustin Pedroia bounced a pitch from David Price past the mound and through the middle of the infield.
With Shane Victorino running from first base, Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar went toward the outfield side of second base to field the ball while second baseman Ben Zobrist headed for the bag to turn the double play.
Then . look out.
Escobar caught the ball and in one motion flipped it behind his back with his glove to Zobrist.
Zobrist grabbed the ball with his bare hand, spun and threw to first base to complete what appeared in the box score as a 6-4-3 double play but was much more than that.
Price called it the best play ever made behind him.
Zobrist looked surprised as he watched Escobar flip the ball.
"Well, I was," Zobrist said. "It was genuine."
Zobrist said Escobar did that a few times during fielding practice in spring training.
"You know he's that kind of player, likes to be creative on the field," Zobrist said. "I was kind of expecting something with the glove flip or something to that effect, but when it went around the back and it was perfect, that's what I didn't expect."
Zobrist said he didn't realize how spectacular the play was until he watched a replay after the game.
"It was impressive, for sure," Zobrist said. "You don't draw plays like that up. That's just one of those things where he's really good and makes it look really easy and makes it easy on everybody else, too, to make the play."
After the game, Escobar said it was a reaction play and that he was glad Zobrist was ready.
"I know he's done it before," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, adding that Escobar probably tried that as a kid on the fields of his native Cuba and maybe in the minor leagues, as well.
"I think the most impressive thing was how easy he made it look, because everybody else is going to make that look more difficult," Zobrist said. "It was smooth and easy and the perfect feed. I had the easy part."
When asked if he could have made that type of play, Zobrist said, "You know what? I probably would have got one out right there - if that. I certainly wouldn't have probably been able to get two."
Zobrist said his biggest concern was crossing in front of Escobar before Escobar could field the ball and perhaps screening him from the ball. Zobrist said he grabbed the ball with this throwing hand because Escobar's feed was so perfect it was like he was picking the ball off a shelf.
"That was just a reaction," Zobrist said. "I think cause it was up in the air and I wanted to get it, I didn't want to wait for it to come down and hit my glove, get rid of it. That was a surprise. I think you just react."
Maddon said the play was made possible because of the amount of time Zobrist has played at second base this season. He knows Escobar's tendencies and knows to expect the unexpected. Maddon said Zobrist is beginning to add a little flash to his game from playing next to Escobar.
"(It's) to the point where he's going to get his Cuban card from Yunel, because together they've been fun to watch," Maddon said.
To which Zobrist replied, "I'm a very light-skinned Cuban."
After the play, Escobar turned to Zobrist and asked, "What happened? What happened? I didn't see."
Escobar also performed his now familiar celebration of shooting a basketball from 3-point range.
"He always hits the J," Zobrist said.
When told that Price recently said Escobar's form on his jump shot looks as if it would produce a brick rather than a 3-pointer, Zobrist said, "I think if it's an out, it's a swish."