Giants flash the leather in road win over Reds

May 20th, 2021

There will be some days when the bats are cold. There will be some days when the pitching isn’t crisp. But there is seldom a day when the black and orange’s defense isn’t on point.

The Giants’ elite glove work was on full display in their 4-0 win over the Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, a defensive exhibition that was needed on a night in which runs were scarce until Buster Posey’s three-run double in the ninth.

For Posey, a three-time World Series champion who has seen baseball played at the highest level, that slick defense is part of the foundation of any contender. 

“I’ve been fortunate to be on some really good teams,” Posey said. “The teams that usually perform the best, or are most consistent, are able to bounce back from tough losses [and] are the teams that pitch well and play good defense. It’s been nice to see this year.”

Of all San Francisco’s defensive gems, the one that made for the flashiest highlight came courtesy of left fielder Mike Tauchman, who made a leaping catch to take away extra bases from Eugenio Suárez in the fourth. Tauchman perfectly tracked the ball, leapt up, fully extended his left arm and crashed into the left-field fence to make the grab.

Most of the outstanding glovework, however, came courtesy of the infield’s left side.

Third baseman Evan Longoria got starter Kevin Gausman out of a jam in the fifth inning with a textbook 5-3 double play when he fielded a grounder, raced to the bag, then threw a dart across his body to Darin Ruf at first base. The sequence was far from easy, but Longoria made it look fundamental.

Longoria wasn’t done there; in the bottom of the seventh inning, Longoria ranged to his right, stopped his momentum, then fired a perfect throw from foul territory to take a hit away from Suárez.

There was also Mauricio Dubón, who made a smooth bare-handed snag and throw on the run in the bottom of the second after Tucker Barnhart’s grounder deflected off Gausman’s glove. That type of defense is becoming the norm for Dubón, who put on a defensive showcase against the Pirates with his aggressiveness and savvy.

“Specifically on a day when Crawford wasn’t playing shortstop, it’s nice to know that Dubón has prepared himself and stepped up in a really meaningful way for us at short,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s been pretty dependable there. He’s been rangey. He’s made great throws and good decisions, kept that nice, slow heartbeat like we asked him to do and also used his athleticism to help us at the shortstop position as well.”

All in all, it was a night where the good ol’ dependable eye test validated the advanced metrics. Coming into Wednesday, the Giants were third in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved (17) and fourth in Ultimate Zone Rating (6.8). Given that the Giants induce more grounders than anyone in baseball -- San Francisco’s ground ball rate of 48.3% entering play led the Major Leagues -- that level of glove work is as necessary as it is a luxury.

“I thought defensively, we did a nice job of picking up our pitchers,” said Kapler. “It’s nice to know when we get balls on the ground, we’re going to convert those balls into outs.”

The defense was invaluable for Gausman, who allowed just one hit across six innings with eight strikeouts, further dropping his ERA on the season to a razor-thin 1.66. With his punchout of Kyle Farmer in the bottom of the fifth, Gausman notched the 1,000th strikeout of his career.

Gausman was clicking right out of the gates, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before walking Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning. In a testament to his early dominance, he got a hit at the plate before allowing one on the mound, slapping a single to left field in the top of the fifth inning. Of course, Gausman’s night was aided by the aforementioned defensive highlights.

“I feel like every five days I’m saying this, but the defense behind me has just been great this year,” Gausman said. “I think one thing that is pretty impressive is these guys have huge track records of being really good defenders, but they’re out there every day doing early work.”