Reliable Galvis a steady presence for O's

April 25th, 2021

The steady rain falling over Camden Yards caused fielders fits throughout the Orioles’ soggy 7-2 loss to the red-hot A’s on Saturday, from outfielders fighting heavy droplets for fly balls to baseballs slipping out of infielders' hands. But not .

The Orioles’ shortstop made the defensive play of the evening before the skies opened, acrobatically tagging the second-base bag to recover Rio Ruiz’s bobble in the first inning. The play forced Matt Olson at second and erased a potential extra baserunner behind starter Wade LeBlanc, who went on to surrender four runs over 1 2/3 innings in a losing effort.

It was a quirky play all around. Reaching to connect with a 1-2 changeup from LeBlanc, Matt Chapman squirted a two-hopper through LeBlanc’s legs, off the pitcher's mound and toward the middle of the diamond. Ruiz fielded it cleanly behind the second-base bag, but lost his grip trying to flip it to Galvis, who was en route from shortstop to cover second base. Galvis reached behind himself mid-sprint and gloved the ball on a bounce, grazing the second base bag with one foot as he slid past the runner.

The A’s challenged the play, and the call was confirmed.

“That is unbelievable!” A's color commentator Dallas Braden marveled on the broadcast. “That reaction from Freddy Galvis is amazing.”

“Freddy did a great job," said LeBlanc of the play. "I thought Rio did a great job getting to it. The flip was an awkward setup for him, but Freddy coming across the bag made a good play to get us an out right there.”

Consider it a highlight on a night the Orioles struggled from the top in dropping their fourth game in five tries, due at least in some part to two early defensive miscues on the infield. LeBlanc’s spot start was spoiled by run-scoring hits from Mark Canha and Olson, whose first-inning bloop single eluded Ruiz despite its .130 expected batting average, per Statcast.

One batter later, Galvis’ athletic play salvaged what could’ve been an inning-ending double play; LeBlanc was tagged for three more runs in the second, before Jed Lowrie’s three-run homer off Tyler Wells all but put the game away for good in the fourth.

The A’s added several fine defensive plays of their own, notably Elvis Andrus’ glove and jump throw to rob Maikel Franco in the eighth. The result was Oakland’s MLB-best 13th consecutive victory, and eighth straight over the Orioles dating back to 2019.

“I think if the first inning went cleaner, it would be a different story,” manager Brandon Hyde said. 

But the O’s managed little in support against right-hander Chris Bassitt and three relievers. The offense has mustered just 10 runs in its past five games, as early-season slumps persist up and down the lineup. An exception is Galvis, who opened the year in a 6-for-39 (.154) funk but is 11-for-28 (.393) with six extra-base hits over his past eight games.

He’s also brought the durability and defensive reliability expected when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal to replace José Iglesias as the O’s shortstop this winter. 

Galvis is one of two Orioles to start all 20 games so far this season, and he is one of their two infielders that rank as above-average defenders by outs above average, the advanced Statcast metric (the other is first baseman Trey Mancini). That’s made an impact given the support around him, with Franco (-4 OAA) a below-average defender at third and Ruiz a natural third baseman brand new to second base.