Conductor Bruce Bochy responded by removing both from the National League Division Series Game 1 lineup in favor of Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson. When the masterful manager reached into his magical hat, though, he found was incredible defense. rather than solid offense
The pair combined to make a trio of miraculous plays, keeping at least one Chicago Cubs run off the board, and preventing more high-stress work from starter Johnny Cueto, who shined in his first postseason start as a Giant.
Span, who slashed .217/.284/.283 versus left-handers in 2016, gave way to Hernandez, who posted a .273/.333/.455 slash against southpaws in limited play this season.
The 29-year-old journeyman flashed his speed to rob David Ross of what looked to be a one-out double in the third inning. Sprinting from straight-away center field into the deep left-center field gap, and finishing with a feet-first slide on the warning track, Hernandez hauled in the fly ball with a basket catch near his waist.
Tomlinson (.306/.367/.361), starting in place of Panik (.226/.295/.301), twice went to the ground to rob the Cubs of hits.
A fourth-inning split-second reaction proved to be of great impact on the game’s outcome, as a one-step diving play robbed Ben Zobrist of more than a smashed ground-ball single. It robbed him of an RBI, with Kris Bryant standing on third and two down.
His ranging dive in shallow right field — behind the first-base position, really — kept Anthony Rizzo off the base paths to lead off the seventh.
The duo combined for a 1-for-7 performance in the batter’s box, although Hernandez had a lead-off walk in the ninth stolen from him on a questionable checked-swing decision from first-base umpire Alan Porter.
With their stellar defensive play, the two assured themselves starting nods should the series go to Game 5 when Chicago’s sole lefty starter Jon Lester will climb the hill again. Should the series come to that, however, they will need to bring some offense to the plate, as the shutout loss is no huge surprise.
During the regular season, the San Francisco offense hit just .253 against lefties (.261 versus right-handers), though it did feature a bit more power facing the major league minority. One home run per 50.7 at-bats as opposed to one per 43.8. Despite that power, the Giants scored a run every 9.73 plate appearances against left-handers as opposed to once every 4.84 facing right-handers.
Preventing runs against the NL’s second-highest scoring offense is a necessity. But losing 1-0 is no consolation to losing 5-0.