Mike Yastrzemski sparks 'much crisper' Giants defensive effort

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Yaz sparks 'much crisper' defensive effort from Giants originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

When the Detroit Tigers took the field at Oracle Park for the first time since the 2012 World Series, the memories flooded back for Giants fans. Pablo Sandoval's three-homer game. Barry Zito's dominance. Justin Verlander's shocked face. The perfect relay to get Prince Fielder at the plate.

As that last one was shown on the broadcast in the middle of Tuesday's game, it served as a reminder. The Giants have changed the way they operate and the way they play, but defense can still take you a long, long way on one of the game's biggest and trickiest fields, and on Tuesday it sparked a 4-3 win.

Mike Yastrzemski kept upping the level of difficulty all night long and Evan Longoria led a solid night for the infield. Carlos Rodón did the rest, throwing six strong innings, and afterward, he lit up when asked about the gloves.

"The boys were making plays tonight. I definitely have to take my hat off to them," he said, smiling. "A lot of defense tonight. It was really nice. It definitely makes it easier when the boys are making plays like that."

The whole night was a step in the right direction for a group that has been awful defensively at times this season, but Yastrzemski was the clear star. It was hard to tell which one of his two plays was more impressive, the throw that cut Javier Baez down at second base and prevented a leadoff double in the fourth, or the leaping grab that robbed Miguel Cabrera of extra bases in the eighth as the Tigers threatened.

Asked for his favorite, manager Gabe Kapler picked the throw. But the whole night pleased a manager who said Sunday that the staff would spend the off day trying to figure out ways the Giants could clean things up a bit.

"Much, much crisper. Noticeably crisper and one of the better defensive games we've played this season," he said. "If we play defense behind our starting pitchers like that, we're going to win a lot of games.

The effort started right away, with Yastrzemski ranging 111 feet and into foul territory while fighting the sun to get Rodón's first out of the night. It's a play that few right fielders make at this park, but a year after he was nominated for a Gold Glove, it's clear Yastrzemski has mastered the dimensions out there and is playing the massive right field as few have. That showed on his throw, too.

Baez is one of the better baserunners in baseball and is particularly sneaky around the bags, but he had no chance. Yastrzemski played the carom perfectly and made a strong throw to second.

"It's more luck than anything, because the way that wall is out there, half of it is chain-link, half is pads, so you've kind of got to play for hopefully the perfect carom," Yastrzemski said. "If you get it, great, you can try to make a play. If not, you've got to try and slow the game down and make sure the guy doesn't get to third. I was kind of just playing the angle it looked like it was going to potentially go off, and I got lucky it hit the pad and not the chain-link."

Longoria's play was sneakier unless you ask Rodón. Jonathan Schoop bounced a 3-2 pitch down the line while leading off the third and Longoria snagged it on a short hop before making an accurate throw across the diamond. It won't go on any highlight reels, but it's the type of play Giants fill-in infielders have often bungled this year.

RELATED: Wade set for perfectly timed Giants return on Wednesday

Rodón nodded at Longoria and mouthed "wow." Later, he pretended to holster a pistol after Yastrzemski's throw. It was the kind of reaction Giants pitchers haven't shown much, but they haven't had as many opportunities as expected to compliment their fielders.

The Giants entered the night ranked 28th in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved and 29th in Outs Above Average. Their outfielders as a group rank 27th in OAA, but on Tuesday, it was a different story.

"We have the capability to do that on any given night," Kapler said. "We're a much better defense than we've shown so far this year. That's the type of defense that we expect to play and that our guys are capable of playing."

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast