Chapman's heroic defensive effort seals another Giants comeback win

Chapman's heroic defensive effort seals another Giants comeback win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Matt Chapman has earned a reputation as Major League Baseball's preeminent defensive third baseman, but his magnum opus might have been a game-winning play in the Giants' thrilling 8-7 comeback win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citi Field.

With San Francisco clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Mets third baseman Mark Vientos stepped into the batters box facing a 3-2 count with two outs and the bases loaded. Vientos hit a slow roller down the third base line, briefly appearing to place the ball where a corner infielder typically would be unable to charge and make a play. The issue? Chapman isn't your typical third baseman.

Chapman made a bare-handed throw that was picked out of the dirt in breathtaking fashion by first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr., narrowly beating Vientos to the bag and giving the Giants their third consecutive come-from-behind win after San Francisco trailed by at least four runs in each game.

After the thrilling victory, Chapman revealed that his ninth-inning heroics were the most excited he has ever been after making a defensive play on the diamond.

"I think it's the most excited I've ever gotten after a play," Chapman told reporters. "Just the situation obviously and how these last four games have been going, it [has] just been crazy games. To be able to have a walk-off play on defense like that, with the bases loaded, game on the line, I think that's probably the best one for sure. Kind of surprised myself even a little bit there. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad we got that win."

The All-Star third baseman detailed his thought process as he charged the ball, revealing the do-or-die nature of his attempt.

"Miss the ball and then the guy from third base just keeps running and we lose, or throw the ball away," Chapman explained. "But I think in that time I believed I could make the play. I kind of in my head just went, 'well, we're either winning this game or we're losing it right here."

While Chapman's supreme confidence in himself ultimately won the Giants the game, manager Bob Melvin shared he didn't believe his third baseman had a chance to make a play on the ball.

"That's a ball you just hope goes foul, that's not a ball you make a play on," Melvin told reporters after Friday's win. "So at some point in time he has to figure out if he has a chance, and I didn't think he did. And I've seen him make about every play he's ever made."

Melvin also made sure to emphasize Wade Jr.'s contribution to the game's final play, highlighting the difficulty of cleanly picking that ball out of the dirt to record the final out.

"Fantastic on both ends of it," Melvin said. "It's a do-or-die play. You stretch that far to pick that ball and it gets by you, it's a loss."

Chapman certainly has led the charge during San Francisco's recent hot streak, but he too was quick to laud Wade Jr.'s part in the show-stopping walk-off defensive play they pulled off.

"Unbelievable," Chapman said regarding Wade's effort on the play. "That easily could have hit off his glove [and] we lose. He hung in there and made a sweet pick and stayed on the base. That play doesn't happen without him."""

Catcher Patrick Bailey appeared well on his way to delivering what unquestionably would have been the most exciting play of the game, launching a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the eighth to give the Giants a 7-6 lead after entering the inning trailing by four runs.

While Bailey's bat provided plenty of electricity on its own, the Giants catcher was quick to praise the defensive efforts of Chapman and Wade Jr. following Friday's win.

"My goodness, that was one of the best plays I've ever seen made on a baseball field, what [Chapman] did in that situation, in that play," Bailey said on "Giants Postgame Live." "Then on the other side with LaMonte making that pick. I mean that was a hell of a win."

The improbable victory brought the Giants to .500 for the first time since March 31. -- four games into the 2024 MLB season when they sat at 2-2.

Friday's win was San Francisco's seventh in its last eight games, a red-hot run that has been sparked by the offense rather than the pitching that had carried the team through the early stretch of the season.

The Giants are averaging over seven runs per game over their last eight contests, begging the question, what will this team look like if they are able to synchronize this high-octane offensive output with the quality pitching that carried them to begin the campaign?

Don't look now, but the never-say-die Giants are just 1/2 game back of the third NL Wild Card spot, incredibly turning themselves into a team that nobody would want to face come October, particularly if they continue their penchant for late-inning heroics.

San Francisco weathered a whirlwind of injuries and rotating lineup cards, but the Giants emerged from a turbulent early-season stretch with perhaps the most valuable asset a baseball team can possess -- the unwavering belief that no deficit is too large and no game is out of reach until the 27th and final out is recorded.

The golden years of San Francisco's dynasty were built on "torture," and with the way things are going, you can count on another summer of nail-biting finishes.

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