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Dive of the Week: J.P. Crawford is always hustling


New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Baseball is a grinder’s game. It’s a 162-game season, year after year, with offseason workouts, six weeks of Spring Training, and the postseason—if you’re lucky—means even more work. It’s a lot of time on your feet, a lot of late nights, a lot of bumps, a lot of bruises, a lot of people poking and prodding and touching and injecting cortisone in your body. To even get to the bigs, you’ve got to endure years of endless bus rides and peanut butter and jellies, the sub-minimum wage life of a minor leaguer.

There’s plenty of glamor in the life of a ballplayer, but much more of your time is spent grinding. You simply have to love the hustle to survive in the business. Too many people are breathing down your neck to take your spot the second you let your foot off the gas. You have to love the exhaustion, love the heartbreak, even love the damage to your body.

J.P. Crawford is that kind of player. He’s a guy who gives it his all every day and always has. We see it so often that we often take it for granted when players leave their feet, but it’s a spectacular thing. Leaping into the air, knowing that gravity will pull you back to the dirt or the grass, is downright brave. On Wednesday, J.P. did that, as he always seems to, to preserve the Mariners’ zero-zero tie with the Yankees.

The computer put the leverage index at just 1.90, but it didn’t feel like that at the time. George Kirby was pitching like his hair was on fire, a hellacious comeback after the Pirates shelled him in the weirdest game of his career. As if to emphasize the point, rather than strutting, he determinedly walked off the mound after inning-ending strikeouts. It was the kind of brilliant effort that the Mariners simply couldn’t afford to waste, especially after the Yanks had eaten Seattle’s lunch the past two games.

And with the game at zero-zero, by the sixth inning, every base runner felt like a threat. Kyle Higashioka wasn’t just on base, he was in scoring position, and Aaron Judge loomed on deck. We’d gone from any base runner feeling like a threat to feeling as if the Mariners couldn’t get Gleyber Torres out to end the inning, the game would functionally be over. But J.P. was willing to challenge gravity, and the Mariners ended up winning the game.

Saturday wasn’t that kind of game at all. Two pitches into his MLB debut, Bryan Woo had already given up a run and things only got worse from there. By the eighth inning, the score was 16-3. It had gotten so bad that Scott Servais had gone through his various human white flags in the bullpen and called on Mike Ford to pitch. It was officially Garbage Time, and the only real question was how soon we could get to Sunday’s game. But J.P. Crawford is that kind of player. Nobody needs to go all out in this situation, but just like he hustled when the stakes were the highest, Crawdaddy hustles no matter what.

He’s cooled off a bit since we did J.P. Crawford Appreciation Week on this site, but my love for him as a player remains as full as ever. Under the circumstances, he could easily have just eaten this ball, but he gave it everything he had diving into the bag to get the out. To be sure, it’s slim pickings for Play of the Week in a week like this, but the least we can do is tip our cap to J.P.’s hustle, no matter the stakes.

Honorable Mentions

Kirby Keeps the Game Going

For the second time this year, Kirby went eight innings. He doesn’t have a win to show for it, but hitting Cal’s target in this spot at 97 mph counts as a win in my book.

Cal Walks Off the Yankees

Honestly, this is pretty impressive purely as a piece of hitting, irrespective of the context; I love how short Cal’s swing has been this year. But of course, the context is what gets this an honorable mention for Play of the Week.

Castillo Battles Back

Last week, we discussed Castillo’s return to form, and though the bats couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain (drink!), he kept that streak going on Friday, this time against a much tougher offense. The most impressive plate appearance came in the third, when he fell behind the Rangers’ best hitter 3-0 but worked his way back to strike out Marcus Semien, finishing him off with 97 on the top rail.

Cabby takes third

“This is the sort of heads up, aggressive play that Little League coaches should be showing their players on a loop.” — me, after everything José Caballero does.