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July 30, 2017

Freddy Galvis collects walk-off hit, but teammates continue to rave about golden glove

When the afternoon was over and the box scores were printed, Vince Velasquez was likely to get the most accolades from Sunday afternoon’s game at Citizens Bank Park.

Velasquez pitched what was arguably his second best game in a Phillies uniform (the 16 strikeout shutout is going to be tough to beat). He went seven shutout innings, struck out six, and walked two in the Phillies 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, the team’s fourth straight win.

But the victory and Velasquez’s pristine start really began and ended with the continuing consistency of the team’s longest-tenured player, shortstop Freddy Galvis.

With the bases loaded and nobody out in a 1-1 game in the ninth inning, Galvis punched a walk-off single to right field for his third hit of the game. It was Galvis’s startling play on the other side of the ball, however, that got Velasquez and Sunday’s taut victory off on the proverbial right foot.

It was from that foot that Galvis leaped to the air after using his glove as a vacuum machine to corral a ball in the hole, make the decision that he didn’t have a play at second, land to the ground only to pivot toward home and nab former spring training teammate and fellow Venezuelan Ender Inciarte at home for an inning-ending out.

“I know he’s a great runner, so I knew he was trying to score,” Galvis said. “I was trying to go to second base, but I figured that I had no chance. So I just tried to jump, saw he was going to home plate and so I went to home plate. A little bit of a play where I had to read the runner.”

It was a play that articulated everything you’d want in your defensive captain on the field: sheer physical talent complemented by smart, controlled baseball instincts.

The play helped Velasquez keep his line unblemished and the top half of the scoreboard untouched after the game’s first half inning. The play was one of many highlight-reel worthy defensive gems Galvis has made at shortstop for the season’s first four months.

And the play was reminiscent of one of the best and most memorable defensive plays in Phillies history, when, on the other side of second base, Chase Utley fielded a ball in the hole, leaped and faked a throw to first before nailing the lead runner at home in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

Galvis laughed when the comparison was made after Sunday’s game.

“Yeah, I saw that,” he said. “I just try to keep my mind on the game and try to – I always say to try to pick something from other players. And Chase was always ahead of everything. So I try to get ahead of every play. It was a good play, too.”

It was more than a good play, and Galvis made two more great plays on Sunday, too. Following Saturday, when he made another play that everyone raced to turned into a gif, too.

It’s become a regular occurrence in 2017, just as it was in 2016. Galvis’ offense will never been considered All-Star-worthy (although he’s currently sporting career highs in OBP and slugging percentage). But his sublime defense at shortstop, a hallmark of his game since his years as a teenage prospect a decade ago, has been among the very best in baseball.

“I was disappointed he didn't win the Gold Glove last year,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I thought he deserved it. I still think he's a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop.”

“For sure – I thought he should have won it last year,” added Aaron Nola. “I think he’s got a really good chance at winning at this year. I hope he wins it.”

The 27-year-old Galvis grew up idolizing 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop Omar Vizquel. He had a poster of Vizquel in his boyhood bedroom. He wears the No.13 because it’s the number Vizquel wore throughout his career.

So does he begin every season hoping he can take a Rawlings Gold Glove Award back to Venezuela, just like his boyhood hero did nearly a dozen times?

“It's something you have to think about after the season, you know?” Galvis said. “My mindset, like I've said before, is I try to do the job and to work every day hard and if I get it, I get it. It's not something I have in my mind. I prefer to have in my mind something to help the team to win more games.”

Well stated.

Velasquez, who benefited from Galvis’ plays on Sunday, wasn’t comfortable putting “the best” label on his teammate but had a better way to describe how his shortstop stacks up.

“He’s been the most consistent,” Velasquez said of all of the shortstops he’s seen this year. “There’s a lot of great players, but there hasn’t been anyone as consistent.”

Defensive metrics aren’t terribly reliable, but here’s what we know through the first four months of the 2017 season.

     • Galvis has made six errors in 102 games. Only three shortstops have made fewer errors (including Jordy Mercer and Brandon Crawford in the National League). But Galvis has played in more games than all of those players, including 17 more than Crawford. Galvis has 62 more total chances this season than Crawford, who has won each of the last two National League Gold Glove awards.

     • Entering Sunday, Galvis had the fourth-best DEF (defensive runs above average) among National League shortstops, behind Corey Seager, Addison Russell, and Crawford. He’s also played 94 more innings than Seager, 140 more than Crawford, and 189 more than Russell.

     • Galvis entered Sunday with the third best Revised Zone Rating (RZR), defined as “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” in the NL. The only two players ahead of him are Russell and Aledmys Diaz. The latter is currently in Triple-A and has played more than 400 innings fewer than Galvis in 2017.

Galvis was one of three finalists (along with Crawford and Russell) for the NL Gold Glove Award in 2016. Even if he doesn't have the same national reputation as the other great defensive shortstops in the game (Crawford, Russell, Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons in the American League), he surely isn’t taken for granted by the guys he’s collecting outs for on a daily basis this season.

Vince Velasquez:

“It makes things a whole lot easier. Just like trusting your catcher, throwing that curveball in the dirt, trusting Knapp back there. … Freddy is a Gold Glover in my eyes right now. He’s making plays with ease and doing them on a regular basis. Again, that’s a big confidence booster and it just makes everything easier as a team.”

Jerad Eickhoff: 

“It’s huge. You know you can attack more in the zone. I know when a ball is going to my right, there’s a good chance it’s going to be an out. … We’ve been spoiled over here just watching him here every day, so it’s hard to compare him to anyone else. But we see it day in and day out. I think he’s the best. Just watching other teams come in here, it’s just reassuring of that.”

Aaron Nola: 

“The guy’s incredible. You saw the plays he made out there today. He made like three top-10 Sportscenter plays today. And he does that every single game. When a ball is being hit over to that side of the infield, there’s a pretty high chance a play is getting made.”

Galvis entered Sunday as a career .243 hitter with a .284 OBP. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 67 runs last year, however, along with stealing 17 bases in 23 attempts.

In 2017, he’s slashing .257/.308/.424 with 11 home runs. In addition to his defense, Galvis is respected among both players and coaches for the positive energy and leadership he brings to the ballpark.

But the elephant that has yet to enter the room is top shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford, who hit his 10th home run of the season on Sunday at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Crawford, 22, is salvaging what was a lost season in the last two months: he entered Sunday slashing .265/.377/.492 with eight home runs, four triples, and 10 doubles in his last 50 games.

And Galvis is a free agent after the 2018 season.

“I'm just playing baseball,” Galvis said of the future. “We'll see what happens."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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