Strong defense has Giants win from Series title
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Strong-armed San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval crisply made every tough play, and emphatically celebrated each triumph.
After completing his throw for the final out Sunday night, he leapt in the air and twirled his robust body. He then pumped a fist and jumped for that signature side bump with first baseman Brandon Belt.
Sandoval even made the trickiest of groundballs look easy. And he wasn’t the only one to show off some snazzy glove work to back Madison Bumgarner in a 5-0 win against the Kansas City Royals that gave the Giants a 3-2 World Series lead.
On a team defined by star pitchers and a hard-nosed, unflappable bullpen, San Francisco’s steady, slick defense has done so much to get this group on the cusp of another championship.
Now, the Giants must go on the road once more to try to close it out — just the way they did in 2010 at Texas and again two years later, closing out a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in Motown. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Kansas City, with Jake Peavy taking the ball for San Francisco and trying for his second title in two years after winning it all with Boston last season.
To begin another stellar day, Sandoval snagged Eric Hosmer’s bouncing grounder that hit the lip of the grass in front of him and suddenly stayed flat, then nabbed Hosmer at first just in time on a key play in the fourth inning.
Moments later, Belt dazzled all on his own when he fielded a groundball by Salvador Perez and raced the Kansas City catcher to first and slid into the bag for the forceout.
Even shortstop Brandon Crawford has been spot on after a shaky start in Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium. He led the team with 21 errors in the regular season.
Through the ugly slumps of June and September, San Francisco has found its groove with the gloves. The Giants are making the spectacular plays and the routine ones, something their opponents have struggled to do this postseason.
While Hunter Pence has the defensive highlight play in these playoffs, when he slammed his back into the right-field wall at AT&T Park to rob Washington’s Jayson Werth of extra bases, unheralded outfielders Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco also have made clutch catches to thwart potential rallies.
The back-to-back defensive gems in Game 5 allowed Bumgarner to work most efficiently on the way to the first World Series complete-game shutout since Josh Beckett in Game 6 of the 2003 Series for the champion Marlins.
Bumgarner, who finished his four-hitter to chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” will be sure to offer a firm pat on the back to everybody behind him. It often starts with the Gold Glove candidate Kung Fu Panda at third base. He has that foursome of fans in gigantic panda hats right behind home plate cheering his every dive, stop and even an occasional awkward tumble.
The southpaw Bumgarner has done his part all postseason, yet again. The snazzy glove work has been a nice bonus.
Sandoval pumped his right fist after cleanly fielding Omar Infante’s grounder and firing to first to end the seventh. Once he scooped another Hosmer grounder and ended the game on another perfect throw to first, Sandoval could really let loose.