ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has been plugging Jon Jay's Gold Glove Award candidacy for weeks now, insistent that the Cardinals center fielder has been as steady as anyone at the position this season. Jay topped his personal highlight reel on Monday.
Though the Cards had already built a comfortable lead in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Jay halted a potential rally-starting moment with a catch he agreed should be labeled the best of his 2012 bunch. Others chimed in with a similarly strong sentiment after St. Louis' 12-4 victory over Washington.
"That's the best catch I've ever seen, all things considered," Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig said. "Just the timing of it. He stuck his glove up at the last second, ran into the wall and held onto it. Everything about it was great."
The grab came in the sixth inning, with the Cards ahead, 7-3, and Danny Espinosa at the plate. Facing rookie reliever Joe Kelly, Espinosa drove a first-pitch fastball to deep left-center. Jay sprinted, looking over his left shoulder as he did, and never slowed down as he reached the warning track.
Jay's glove went up against the wall, and as the ball went in, he collided with the padding. Jay held on to the ball, showing it with his hand as he tumbled to the ground.
"I saw it up there and got a pretty good jump," Jay said. "I got to the warning track and made a choice to jump. I knew I had to make a choice, and I made a jump and I was able to do that."
The leaping catch took away a leadoff extra-base hit from Espinosa, who entered the at-bat 0-for-4 in the series.
"When I hit that ball, I thought it was for sure over his head," Espinosa said. "I thought I got enough of it to actually hit it out. He went a long way and made a great play."
The sellout crowd of 45,840 gave Jay an extended ovation as he returned to his position in center. The play was shown several times on the Busch Stadium video board. Jay heard augmented applause again when he came to bat in the bottom half of the inning.
"I definitely appreciated it," Jay said of the recognition. "It was great for the fans to show their support like that. I've never had a stadium get that loud for me doing something. That was definitely something special."
Jay's night, while punctuated by that catch, was not entirely defined by it. The leadoff hitter reached base three times, drove in three runs and scored one. Two of his RBIs came with two out.
Jay maintained an aggressiveness on the basepaths, too. Though he was thrown out trying to extend a single into a two-base hit in the second, Jay swiped a base and legged out a triple later in the game.
Though his offensive contributions on Monday had a greater impact on the outcome, Jay's Game 2 performance will nevertheless be remembered for the moment in which he shined in the field.
"He's been so consistent in the outfield making the routine play, but the biggest thing about him is how he's taken charge in the outfield," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's truly been quarterbacking and improving, and it's fun to watch him do his thing."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.