Concealed in the 2012 playoff mess and well-known players like Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong and Buster Posey emerging as heroes was the impact of another player trying to make a name for himself.
And, while the average fan won’t notice his impact, true Giants fans have realized how vital Gregor Blanco has been to his team’s success.
Blanco has come up with key hits and great plays in the outfield on a regular basis. He was a part of every Giant run in Game 3 of the World Series, and he made a great catch in the ninth inning. He made two great catches in Game 1, and he did the same in the NLDS and NLCS.
Remember San Francisco’s six-run fifth inning in Game 5 of the NLDS? Blanco started it with a two-strike single, and in that game, he made a diving catch to rob Zack Cozart of a hit. He hasn’t made a single mistake in the playoffs, at least not on defense.
He struggled in August and September while trying to fill the void left by Melky Cabrera. But when the Giants needed him most, he stepped up. He scored the only run in the first nine innings of NLDS Game 3 (another elimination game). And, in Game 4 of the NLDS, he crushed a ball into the seats for a two-run home run.
To cap off his postseason (unless there’s more coming), Blanco crushed a 3-2 pitch from Anibal Sanchez with a runner on third in World Series Game 3. The ball went into the right-center field gap, scoring a run. Blanco scored on a hit by Brandon Crawford, and San Francisco won 2-0.
In Game 2, with two on and none out in the seventh, Blanco laid down a gorgeous bunt and reached. San Francisco scored the winning run in the inning, thanks to Blanco’s bunt.
He’s still learning the game, and veterans like Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence are helping him. But he’s picking it up fast and making an impact, hustling and doing everything he can to help his team. Thanks to Blanco’s success, Melky Cabrera wasn’t even added to the postseason roster (although you could argue he wouldn’t have been added anyways).
Blanco completely represents the Giants. He is a hard-working, determined player who will dive and do anything he can to make a catch, steal a base or get a hit. He will never jog on the base paths, he will never hesitate to dive into a base, and he will never hesitate to lay out for a baseball.
When Cabrera was suspended, I thought San Francisco’s offensive production would plummet. Instead, guys stepped up, and it didn’t. One of those guys was Blanco.
He barely has any power, which is why he only has six homers in the regular season and the postseason. He doesn’t drive in many runs, either. But you have to respect his ability to get on base (.333 OBP), score runs (56) and steal bases (26).
In the postseason, his OBP is up to .345. His slugging percentage has skyrocketed from .344 to .426, with his OPS rising from .676 to .771. He has knocked in five runs, scored 10, and hit one home run. He has five extra-base hits, too, which has been very helpful.
Would the Giants still be here without their speedy little left fielder? It’s scary to think about that, because the answer may very well be no.
Blanco gave the Giants a huge boost in May and June while assuming the leadoff role and helping avenge Angel Pagan’s struggles. Giants fans loved him, and most stuck with him during his struggles, when his batting average dropped to .244, which isn’t extraordinary by any means.
And now, they are getting their reward.
The postseason creates many heroes, and some, like David Freese and Reggie Jackson, get more recognition than others. If San Francisco wins the World Series, Ryan Vogelsong, who is 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in the postseason, Barry Zito (1.69 ERA), Pablo Sandoval (three-homer game) and Marco Scutaro (NLCS MVP) will get most of the credit.
But if you dig deep enough, you will see footprints left by Blanco. Then, you’ll realize how vital he was to the team, and how extraordinary the tale of a former journeyman outfielder was.