SAN FRANCISCO -- The play Mauricio Dubon made in the sixth inning was overshadowed by the one he made in the fifth, but as Dubon talked of his swipe tag that wiped away what looked to be a surefire stolen base, it became clear why the Giants have fallen in love with their rookie infielder.
Kevin Kramer tried to take second on Jeff Samardzija and Buster Posey and got a good jump. The pitch was up and in, leaving Posey little time to make a throw, and his effort veered toward right field. But Dubon managed to get down a tag that would make Javier Baez proud. He clipped Kramer's left heel and then immediately held his finger up in celebration and ran off the field.
It was close enough that the Pirates took 30 seconds to decide if they would challenge the ruling. And that's exactly what Dubon was counting on. He didn't need to see the out call on the field. It didn't really matter if it was called correctly or not.
"I knew his feet were there," Dubon said. "Now with cameras, I was just trying to put the tag on."
Dubon has played in just 15 baseball games that included challenges. Asked when he realized that cameras would back him up if he made the right play, Dubon smiled.
"I watch a lot of baseball," he said. "I watch a lot of games."
He apparently soaks it all in, too. Above all, the Giants have been impressed on a daily basis by Dubon's instincts and intellect on the field. Before Thursday's flat 4-2 loss to the Pirates, manager Bruce Bochy lit up as he spent a couple minutes talking about a bunt Dubon had tried and failed to put down with a runner on Wednesday night. Dubon had noticed that the third baseman was playing back and he could maybe get a single out of it. It didn't matter that he didn't get the bunt down, Bochy spoke with him and reinforced that Dubon had made the smart decision.
He showed his feel for the game on defense Thursday with the highlight of a day the Giants will otherwise forget. With a runner on first and no outs in the fifth, Bryan Reynolds hit a routine grounder to second. Adam Frazier had been running on the play and as Dubon fielded the ball he slyly kept an eye on Frazier while also taking a couple steps toward first. When Frazier bolted for third, Dubon waited for Evan Longoria to get into position and then made a perfect throw to cut down the lead runner.
"He was already in motion. I put myself (in the head of) the baserunner. I would have kept going if I were him," Dubon said. "So I held the ball. He thought I would be asleep, I guess. I held it a little longer and was able to get him."
It was the kind of play Bochy has been talking about since Dubon joined the team in late August. Dubon said he couldn't remember how often he had made it himself. He's simply watched a lot of baseball and noted he likes to pay attention to detail.
"He's got a good clock on him with great game awareness," Bochy said. "And just really good instincts."
The Giants have had that kind of player at shortstop for most of this decade. They now have it at second base in a 25-year-old who looks like he'll be a pretty good one. Dubon already has won over a veteran clubhouse.
"That was a great play by Dubey," said Samardzija, who compared Dubon's love for defense to Kevin Pillar's. "He had two really great plays today with that tag at second and that play. A smart play. You've got a lot of time with the ball being hit hard to him, and to have that awareness out there is pretty special. We've seen some really great things out of him and he's young, too. It's fun to watch."