3/11/2013 7:42 P.M. ET
Bunting a crucial part of Giants' offensive arsenal
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Often while Giants hitters practice bunting, Tim Flannery asks them to imagine that they're batting in a World Series game. The situation calls not only for a bunt, but also extreme calm.
"Chaos. Noise. You can hardly breathe," Flannery said Monday, describing the scenario he paints for hitters. "What are you going to do?"
If you're a Giant, you frequently succeed.
Bear in mind that Flannery began presenting this World Series scenario long before last October.
"He did it throughout the year," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. When the Giants actually reached the Fall Classic, they were ready to respond:
In Game 2, Gregor Blanco helped snap a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a sacrifice-bunt attempt that became a single when the ball rolled more than halfway up the third-base line and stayed fair. The Giants won, 2-0.
In Game 4, the left-handed-batting Crawford bunted Ryan Theriot to second base, overcoming the theoretical disadvantage of facing Detroit left-hander Phil Coke. Crawford's sacrifice put Theriot in position to score what proved to be the game- and Series-winning run on Marco Scutaro's 10th-inning single. The Giants won, 4-3.
Playing home games in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and lacking premier sluggers in their lineup, the Giants must employ every means possible to generate offense. So they work diligently at sharpening their bunting technique under the supervision of Flannery, San Francisco's third-base coach, from the beginning of Spring Training until the end of the season.
"It's a small thing, but it's a huge deal," Crawford said, making sense despite the apparent contradiction. "That's why we work on it so much. Everybody thinks it's really easy; it's just a bunt. But it's just like hitting. You have to put it on the right spot."
The Giants have begun renewing their commitment to bunting properly. Non-roster invitee Kensuke Tanaka, bidding for a utility infield role, bunted for a single in Sunday's first inning when he noticed Milwaukee third baseman Alex Gonzalez playing deep. Right-hander Matt Cain laid down a sacrifice bunt in his first Cactus League plate appearance.
Blanco, who ranked ninth in the National League with six bunt hits last year, intends to bunt during Cactus League games but is content to wait until it will be most effective.
"I want to do it in the right situations," he said. "I don't want to do it just to do it."
As Blanco sharpened his bunting skills Monday morning at Scottsdale Stadium, he laid down several balls that hugged the third-base line, resembling his Game 2 gem.
"A lot of people said it was lucky," Crawford said. "He's put them down like that in practice. I wouldn't say that was a lucky bounce or anything. That was just a good bunt."
Though Blanco admitted feeling nervous, the hours that he spent tapping bunt after bunt benefited him in the World Series.
"At that particular moment, it was a lot tougher than I thought," he said. "There were men on first and second and I knew that if I put a good bunt down, it could change the game and change the Series. I just said to myself at that moment, 'Don't worry about what's going on. Just focus on what you practice every single day.' That's what I did, and it went better than I thought. ... That was one of those bunts you couldn't put there with your hand."
Two games later, Crawford also dissolved tension with concentration.
"The whole World Series can be nerve-racking for some people, I guess," he said. "You're on national display. Everybody's looking at you. But really, after [pregame] introductions, I was fine. It was just another game. ... That situation for a bunt is the same thing. It's just another bunt I have to get down."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.