Defense adds sparkle to diamond
Tuesday, April 27
SAN FRANCISCO — Great pitching is sublime. Powerful, consistent hitting is impressive. But few aspects of baseball demonstrate its beautiful, skillful demands like defense.
There was plenty of that on display at AT&T Park on Tuesday as the Giants defeated the Phillies, 6-2. If you saw it, consider yourself fortunate.
The defensive display began early, as Schierholtz dove to snare Placido Polanco’s fly to right-center field for the second out in the first inning.
Schierholtz gained an accomplice in the second inning. He corralled Ryan Howard’s liner into the right-field corner and unleased a strong one-hop throw to second base, where shortstop Edgar Renteria was waiting nonchalantly. Fooled by Renteria’s passive posture, Howard slowed as he neared the bag, believing he had a sure double. Instead, Renteria slapped the tag on Howard a stride before he reached base.
The Phillies’ turn came in the third. With Renteria on first base and one out, Sandoval smacked a grounder up the middle that shortstop Juan Castro lunged for and gloved. Falling down, he shoveled the ball from his glove — under his right arm, like a basketball player making a no-look pass — to second baseman Chase Utley, who barehanded the ball and relayed it to first for a double play.
Footnote: I covered Castro for a few years in Cincinnati. He’s like a master violinist who performs in obscurity. Everybody in baseball, however, knows what a marvelous defender he is. That play he made was eye-popping but not surprising.
Recapturing the spotlight, Schierholtz ran down Carlos Ruiz’s long drive to right-center to christen the fifth inning. Then Schierholtz threw out Utley, who was trying to stretch a single into a double, to open the ninth. That gave Schierholtz two outfield assists in a game for the first time in his relatively brief career (193 games). The last Giants outfielder to record two outfield assists in a game was Randy Winn on April 15, 2006 at Los Angeles.
– Chris Haft