CLEARWATER, Fla. -- You don't often see the kind of play Matt Lipka made in the ninth inning of the Braves' 2-2 tie with the Phillies at Bright House Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Well, Lipka does. He's already done it twice this spring -- more specifically, twice this week.
With Jose Constanza at third base and the Braves down by a run, the 21-year-old outfielder grounded into what looked like a possible game-ending double play to second base. Philadelphia's Cesar Hernandez made the throw home and started the rundown with Constanza, who was eventually tagged out by pitcher Brad Lincoln. That gave the speedy Lipka time to wheel around second base and head for third, forcing a rushed throw from Lincoln that sailed by third baseman Reid Brignac and into left field.
Lipka dashed home and tied the game, earning respect from Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and the rest of his teammates. Some of them saw him pull off a similar move against the Nationals on Saturday, when he was credited with a single and scored on two errors.
"I liked the other one," Lipka said, "because I had a hit before it."
"It's a great thing to see," added reliever David Carpenter. "Yeah, it's a Spring Training game, but each game is important. You're trying to get yourself prepared right now for the regular seaosn, and guys are going about it the right way. They're busting their butt. He could've just put his head down and trotted to first, and that would be it. But he put his head down and busted his butt to get to third, and it was good baseball."
Likely to start the season with Double-A Mississippi, Lipka said he's just trying to learn as much as possible and maybe open a few eyes during his first stint in Major League Spring Training.
"That's your goal coming down here. I'm not pressing to make the club. I know I'm going to be in Double-A this year," Lipka said. "I'm just coming out here and trying to show these guys what my game's all about, and that's hard-nosed baseball, playing hard, working hard and just hustling on and off the field. To say that I can make an impression on these guys this early, I'm super honored and blessed by that."
And that's just what he's done so far.
"He's been impressive. He scored a run, and the ball was in the infield," Gonzalez said. "He adds that dimension of speed. ... I've been impressed by him, I really have."