Programming note: Giants-Nationals coverage starts Sunday at 10 a.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
WASHINGTON -– Pablo Sandoval put his hands on his knees and smiled. He knew it would end sometime, and it’s called the hot corner for a reason.
But what a run it was.
Sandoval’s throwing error in the second inning Saturday at Nationals Park was his first in 74 games. He hadn’t made an error since May 24 against the Minnesota Twins.
He made it nearly three-quarters of the way to the major league record of 99 consecutive error-free games at third base, held by Jeff Cirillo and John Wehner.
Sandoval knew what slipped away along with the ball when he charged Anthony Rendon’s slow roller, fumbled it for a moment then threw over the best vertical leap of first baseman Buster Posey.
“I tried to make a perfect throw but the ball was wet and it slipped out of my hand,” Sandoval said. “You’ll make some errors but for me it was special because 73 is a lot. For me, especially. I was having big problems early in the season.”
Sandoval exited a few games early for late-inning defense in April. He might have put on a few pounds since spring training. But his glovework got better and better. There have been times infielders set errorless streaks that had as much to do with limited range as surehanded skill. Ryne Sandberg was a prime example. You can’t make an error on a ball you can’t reach.
That hasn’t been the case with Sandoval, who grades out near the top at his position in range factor and several other advanced defensive metrics. He’s taken away countless hits.
“Impressive. A really impressive run for Pablo,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’m proud of him and how hard he’s worked.”
Bochy said Sandoval’s forearm was a little tight Saturday, which might have played a role in his throw. But he was better Sunday.
Rendon wasn’t credited with a single on the play, but it would’ve been an error for Sandoval regardless because a run scored from second base.
“You don’t want to lose that streak, but the best way to help the team is to start another one,” said Sandoval, who committed 18 errors last year but only has six thus far this season. “It’s a good moment for me.”
His defense might be doubling his market as he comes up on free agency with NL clubs perhaps taking a harder look at him.
Sandoval said the key has been concentration and commitment. Oh, and with him, there’s always the third C: conditioning.
“I’ve been focused on getting better and better,” he said. “I think in these situations it’s trying to get the first step. That’s what I was working on in the offseason, and I think I’ve improved a lot.”