Detroit — Probably the worst part of the whole thing for JaCoby Jones was trying to explain how he does some of the incredible things he does in center field.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said, following the Tigers’ thrilling 7-5 win over the Nationals on Saturday. “I really don’t know. You just do it.”
Jones stole a home run from Victor Robles in the third inning. The ball left the bat with an exit velocity of 101 mph and was going to easily clear the wall in front of the visitors’ bullpen in left-center field.
“I was playing back because I knew the wind was howling out and the ball was carrying well,” Jones said. “I knew once he hit it I had a chance. And once I got close to the wall, I knew I had to go up and get it.”
He also knew he couldn’t jump high enough to get it, so he stuck one foot into the padding and hoisted himself up. He reached out and snared the ball a couple feet beyond the wall.
“You could kind of see it developing,” Tigers acting manager Steve Liddle said. “The ballpark is so big. He just kept running and he timed it perfectly. Boy that was a great play and it gave the guys a lot of energy.”
Jones robbed Adrian Beltre of a home run July 7 last season. On that one, he ran along the warning track, leaped and just got his glove over the top of the fence to catch the ball. This one was hit deeper, adding to the degree of difficulty.
“It’s the best feeling,” Jones said. “It’s like hitting a home run, kind of better actually. You get everybody hyped, get the energy going and get the crowd into it. It’s fun.”
It was the second run-saving defensive play the Tigers pulled off early in the game. In the first inning, Nick Castellanos ran down a line drive by Howie Kendrick (exit velocity of 107 mph off the bat) into the cutout in right-center. According to Statcast, the drive had a 68 percent hit probability.
If Castellanos didn’t make the catch, two runs would have scored.
“You can lose a game in the first inning just like you can lose it in the ninth,” Liddle said. “Nick ran that ball down in the gap, that was kind of a heart-punch for them. They thought they had a couple of runs.”
The beneficiary of both plays was Tigers spot starter Gregory Soto.
“Unbelievable,” he said through interpreter Carlos Guillen. “It made me want to go out there and get through five or six innings. Just that those guys are doing the best behind me, making great plays.”