Editor's note: This article is Part 3 of a five-part series in which Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford breaks down his stand-out defensive plays from the team's 2014 World Series run
The situation: The degree of difficulty here doesn’t quite match Crawford’s other top plays, but this one literally turned a loss into a win. The Giants tied this July 5 game on Michael Morse’s homer in the top of the ninth, but given how deep Gregor Blanco was playing in center, this shot by Yasmani Grandal would have easily scored Chase Headley. Sergio Romo got out of the inning and Brandon Belt hit a go-ahead two-run homer in extra innings.
[RECAP: Giants 5, Padres 3 (10)]
“Really at any time in that situation — a guy on second and bottom of the ninth or extra innings -- any time a base hit will end the game -- I’m thinking that I have to do whatever I can to keep it in front of me,” Crawford said. “Even if I’m not getting the out, I at least keep it on the infield and keep the guy from scoring.”
This play was made before the dive. The Giants started shifting more aggressively last season, and Crawford was positioned perfectly and didn’t have to go far for a ball that looked like a sure hit off the bat.
“(Ron) Wotus does a lot of homework on that and makes scouting reports that I will use as a starting point,” Crawford said. “He gives me the authority to move wherever I want based on what I see. He sees the swings but he’s not seeing what I see out there as a shortstop. I’ll move pitcher to pitcher, and I’ll move around and see what pitch he’s throwing. With Romo there, I’m playing to pull because I don’t think (Grandal) is going to take him opposite field. Romo is either sinking it and (Grandal) is going to roll it over and hit a grounder like this, or he’s throwing a slider or something off-speed that he will most likely pull. A lot of it is who is on the mound, what pitch they’re throwing, and then, obviously, who is at the plate.”
Crawford takes thousands of grounders a month, but he never practices diving like this. He started trying to dive in little league.
“In little league it’s hard because you dive and stop it and the guy is at first base,” he said. “When we got to the 90-foot bases is when I started to make plays like that.”
Crawford has played 500 games at shortstop for the Giants and has been at that position most of his life. There was one summer-league coach, though, who had Crawford play second base for a couple of teenage years.
“My coach said I was too small to play shortstop,” said Crawford, listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. “That’s kind of funny now because I’m one of the bigger shortstops in the league.”