SAN FRANCISCO -– The bases were loaded in the ninth inning of a tie game Thursday night in the National League Championship Series.
Nail-biting time for the Giants?
More like practical joke time.
As infielders gathered near the pitcher’s mound when reliever Jeremy Affeldt was summoned from the bullpen, shortstop Brandon Crawford snatched the glove of first baseman Brandon Belt and hid it behind his back.
“I didn’t know anybody saw that,” an amused Crawford said after the Giants’ 6-3 walkoff victory over St. Louis. “Aw, he knew it. He was lost for a split second, and that’s all I was going for, really. Then he knew it was me.”
“It’s only the biggest situation in the postseason and Crawford is hiding Belt's glove,” Giants radio announcer Duane Kuiper remarked over the airwaves.
Is it any surprise this team comes through under playoff pressure? When the white-knuckle moments arrive, the Giants keep their wits –- and their humor -– intact.
And speaking of Crawford, he delivered one of the most clutch plays of the night, shortly before pulling the prank on his teammate in the ninth.
The Cardinals had runners on first and second with one out when Kolten Wong hit a sharp grounder that seemed ticketed for left field. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval got a piece of it with his glove, and the ball deflected toward Crawford. The shortstop gloved it heading to his right, turned on a dime and unloaded a perfect throw to second to force Randal Grichuk for the second out.
That stunted the Cardinals’ rally, and Affeldt eventually retired Oscar Taveras on an inning-ending comebacker with the bases loaded to keep it a 3-3 game.
Second baseman Joe Panik was surprised that Crawford managed to get even one out on Wong’s grounder.
“I didn’t realize it got re-directed,” Panik said. “The kind of shortstop he is, it was unbelievable how he was able to catch it and get rid of it quick, the ball right at my chest. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do.”
[STIGLICH: NLCS MVP Bumgarner 'excited to be moving on']
More flashy defense helped Giants starter Madison Bumgarner get out of a jam in the top of the first. With runners on first and second with one out, Sandoval left his feet and snared Jhonny Peralta’s line drive, then whipped a quick throw to second to double off Jon Jay and end the threat.
When the ninth inning arrived, Travis Ishikawa provided the drama with a three-run walk-off homer. In pranking Belt, Crawford was more than happy to provide the laughs.