Blanco contributes with glove in Game 1 win
Highlight-reel grabs in left lead Giants' defensive effort vs. Tigers
SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregor Blanco grinned as he looked down at the grass stains on his jersey, remnants from his two nearly identical diving catches in Wednesday's 8-3 win to open the World Series.
And much to the chagrin of Giants longtime clubhouse manager Mike Murphy, Blanco's stained jersey is nothing new in a season in which he has made some sort of highlight catch in the outfield on a regular basis.
"He's happy about it if we win games," Blanco said. "So as long as we win, it's good."
Blanco was back at it again Wednesday night, ending the top of the third by robbing Miguel Cabrera of a single with a diving catch as he ran in from deep left field. It was nearly deja vu in the sixth, when Blanco made another spectacular catch, this time coming in to catch a Prince Fielder line drive as he once again was positioned in deep left field.
"That second one that Prince hit, it had some funky spin on it, and that was so impressive because not only did he dive, but he had to stay with the path of that ball," Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito said. "He's such a huge part of this team in every way."
Blanco credited an aggressive outfield approach instilled by first-base coach Roberto Kelly and directed by center fielder Angel Pagan for positioning him to make such spectacular catches this season, which have almost become routine for an outfielder who arrived to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
"Our defense can win games for you," manager Bruce Bochy said. "You can help win a ballgame without getting a base hit. We're more athletic and faster in the outfield, and those guys do a great job of covering ground."
Baseball fans outside of the regular Giants faithful caught a glimpse of Blanco's outfield range when his spectacular diving catch in the right-center-field gap helped preserve Matt Cain's perfect game in June. Blanco was briefly bumped from the Giants' outfield after they acquired Hunter Pence at the end of July, but he found himself back in the lineup after left field opened when Melky Cabrera was suspended in August.
"The one catch he made in Cain's perfect game we'll always remember, but he's done that all year," Bochy said. "He's made great plays out there. He gets a good jump on the ball, and he throws well. He's just a gifted outfielder."
Blanco has been showing off his knack for highlight catches in the postseason as the Giants' pitching staff continues to benefit from the outfielders' aggressive approach. Blanco made several catches against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series that had him either sprinting, diving or tumbling to get to the ball after finding himself in position to make the play.
"The last series, Allen Craig came up to me and said 'Hey, that's usually a double for me,'" Pagan said. "I just said 'I know the way you hit, so I'm going to position somebody over there.' I'm going to keep my guys where [the other team is] going to hit the ball."
Jay Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.