Gregor Blanco was a one-hit wonder with the Giants during the regular season. He caught fire, hitting .315 in May, but once the calendar flipped to June, Blanco flipped to invisibility.
Bruce Bochy extended Blanco’s leash because of his superb May. The strategic manager prayed that his surprising outfielder could revert to May form, but his train of success seemingly reached a screeching termination, as he never hit over .300 in a month for the remainder of the regular season.
And now, over five months later, Blanco has weeded his starting job back up and is making a substantial difference on both sides of the ball during the playoffs.
Blanco’s .200 batting average in the postseason entering Game 2 doesn’t draw any comparisons to a substantial impact player, per se. But he has had his moments. In Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, Blanco hit one of the Giants’ three home runs in the game and set a positive tone for a San Francisco offense that was practically non-existent through the series’ first three games.
In Game 1 of the NLCS against the St.Louis Cardinals, Blanco captured his inner-Angel Pagan, slashing a two-run triple in a four-run fourth inning for the Giants, who at one point trailed 6-0.
It is small moments, but massive efforts that are molding Blanco into a unique October star. His contributions don’t garner the headlines or even show up in the box score, but he is an irreplaceable asset in the Giants’ fielding alignment.
Coming into the playoffs, the Giants seemed set on Xavier Nady as their starting left fielder. In Game 1 of the NLDS, Bochy penciled Blanco in against the righty Johnny Cueto for match-up purposes, but the speedy outfielder would cement himself as the starter over Nady rather quickly, who clearly is the better and more experienced hitter.
During Game 1, Blanco proved to be one of the lone bright spots for the Giants. He collected two hits and walked once, as the rest of his fellow teammates couldn’t solve the Reds’ staff. In spite of the lost, Bochy stuck with Blanco. Up to Game 2 of the World Series, Nady still has yet to start a game, which tells you how much confidence Bochy has in Blanco despite unstable offensive production.
It’s not like Blanco’s offense is anything in the neighborhood of dominating. As mentioned, he has had his triumphs at the plate, but outside of those handful of moments, he has been nothing but average at best.
What hasn’t been average, though, is Blanco’s glove. Alone, that elite glove of his has saved the Giants on multiple occasions.
“Yeah, our defense can win games for you. You can help win a ballgame without getting a base hit,” said Bochy on Blanco.“He’s one of those players with the defense that gives you, we’re more athletic and faster in the outfield, and those guys do a great job of covering ground. He’s one of the best.”
As Pablo Sandoval’s historic three-homer night deservedly commanded the questions and headlines of the national media, Blanco quietly made his mark on the Giants’ 8-3 win on Wednesday night. He corralled two almost identical catches in left field, robbing Prince Fielder and Delmon Young of at least singles, and potentially more.
It’s catches like those that go uncovered, but save runs from crossing the plate. Those highlight real snags also make Bochy look like a genius because Nady probably would not have even come close to closing the gap on the plays Blanco makes look easy.
In Game 2 on Thursday, Blanco collected two more hits. One clanked off Doug Fister’s head (he was okay), and the other was a perfectly placed bunt that set up a bases loaded opportunity for Brandon Crawford. Crawford proceeded to ground into a double play, but the Giants were on the board.
When it’s all said and done, Blanco’s contributions will go vastly overshadowed simply because he doesn’t boast the gaudy stats. But his unique contributions are the ones that have the Giants where they are, two games up on the Tigers heading back to Detroit.