Mauricio Dubon, who went to Capital Christian High School in Sacramento, who wore a Brandon Crawford jersey to Giants games as he was growing up, has proven he is a good center fielder, even after coming up through the minors as an infielder.
He now wants to prove he is a good infielder all over again. How do you become a good infielder?
“Have you guys seen the movie ‘Like Mike?’ Dubon asked after the Giants’ 4-1 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The answer was no. “Somebody wears Michael Jordan’s shoes, and all of a sudden he’s good at basketball.”
And so that explained the glove he wore at second base — a glove that he said has been his for a while now. It once belonged to Crawford, whose name is inscribed onto it.
Dubón with some stellar defense lately. Coincidence with the glove he’s rocking?! Hmmm 😎🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/deutrBR1wH
— George Kontos (@G_Kontos) May 16, 2021
The way he has played defense the last two days, it would not surprise if he were wearing Willie Mays’ cleats and Joe Panik’s pants.
With a mitt that at least originally belonged to his double-play partner, Dubon made three standout plays Saturday and Sunday, two in the latter’s fifth inning that had a “tremendous impact” on the game, Gabe Kapler said.
The first Sunday was impressive, if not spectacular. Pittsburgh’s Kevin Newman, with a runner on first and no outs in a tie game, popped up toward the first-base seats, and Dubon sprinted a very long way from second base. He tracked it all the way and never slowed, eventually sticking out his glove a step before he was forced to jump against the netting. He had to contend with that netting and a similarly streaking Darin Ruf throughout, but he made it look easy.
WHAT A CATCH BY DUBON 👀 pic.twitter.com/AZbSckvKAb
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 16, 2021
A solid play on which he needed his wheels and glove. He needed his mind two batters later.
Dubon’s instincts have often been spotlighted this year, usually when he is on the basepaths and usually when he is making outs. He made an out on the basepaths Sunday, but the kind the Giants like.
With runners on the corners, Bryan Reynolds took off from first, and Buster Posey threw down to second — Reynolds slowing up and retreating, slowly, to first. He was trying to get into a rundown that would allow Adam Frazier to score from third. Dubon chased him back about halfway to first, whirled and threw to third.
“If I overthrow it or the guy gets safe, I get my head chopped off,” Dubon said. “But it ended up working.”
Have yourself an inning, Mauricio Dubon 👏 pic.twitter.com/yb39mSOAcL
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 16, 2021
It was a perfectly tossed strike to Evan Longoria, who applied a tag on a bang-bang play. The original call was out, and the replay review was not conclusive enough to overturn it.
Dubon wasn’t too worried about potential decapitation.
“Longo said he had it,” said Dubon, whose plays allowed Alex Wood to escape the inning and go out for a sixth in a game the Giants asked for and received three solid innings from their bullpen.
Dubon was moved to center field last year, and the lifetime infielder adapted quickly. He has been on the dirt more often this year because of the injuries and the club’s crowded outfield picture, but he keeps showing improvement and athleticism wherever he is placed. The instincts have backfired on the basepaths a couple times, but it is hard to remember his last defensive miscue.
And unmentioned thus far is a play that Kapler said was “maybe the play of the season.”
He has looked like a center fielder playing second base, and with good reason. In Saturday’s fourth inning, Steven Duggar broke back, which meant he was not going to catch a shallow flyball from Gregory Polanco. Dubon streaked out at a full sprint and extended his glove up and backhanded the ball on the run, to plenty of cheers from Johnny Cueto.
“He went from being a plus second baseman to a plus center fielder on that one play,” Kapler said over Zoom. “I don’t know if there’s any other second baseman in the game that makes that play.”
It was Dubon’s favorite of his weekend.
“Not going to lie, I was pretty impressed,” Dubon said. “I started running and next thing I know, I looked up and there was nobody there. I was like, that’s my ball I guess.”
The shallow flyballs that require an on-the-run infielder are a specialty of Dubon’s double-play partner. He was playing Like Brandon.
If Buster Posey qualified, he would be leading the race for the NL batting title, up to .382 with his 3-for-4-with-a-walk game. A player must average 3.1 plate appearances per game, which would mean 502 over a 162-game season. If he continues playing two out of three games, switching off with Curt Casali, he likely would not qualify. He does not seem to mind.
“Ultimately, it’s always going to be about trying to win games,” Posey said. “If I think what we’ve got going is the best chance to win, then that’s what we do.”
Matt Wisler threw 13 pitches, all sliders, to get through a 1-2-3 eighth inning in a game the Giants led by one. The depleted bullpen turned to the righty, who had struggled for much of this season, and he came through.
It sounds as if he’ll get more chances.
“We feel good about giving him an opportunity now to try to take down a meaningful role for us in our bullpen, and we believe he can do that,” said Kapler, who was happy with the shape and command of a slider from Wisler that has improved.