Trevor Story had a difficult decision to make in the top of the ninth inning Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
With runners on the corners and Colorado leading by a run, Story could’ve made the conservative play and collected the ground ball hit to him and turned a double play. Doing so would’ve meant the Phillies scored the game-tying run. It also would’ve cleared the bases with two outs.
Story’s other option was to try to gun down the base runner at home, a riskier move that would preserve the Rockies’ one-run lead if successful.
Story chose the latter. His snap decision resulted in Odubel Herrera getting gunned out at home. Although the play came in an eventual 3-2 loss, it was the latest example of the strides the Rockies’ second-year shortstop has made in the field.
Story is turning into one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. His gunning-down of Herrera was one of four spectacular defensive plays he made Sunday. There was his spinning put-out going to his left in the fourth; a jump-throw going to his right in the seventh; and in the eighth, a cannon of a relay throw to get Cameron Rupp out at home.
“It’s kind of an anticipation sort of thing,” Story said. “Just be ready to make the play, and don’t hesitate because there’s no time for that. Just trying to have a feel for what plays could be made.”
In the latest season of “Game of Thrones,” Littlefinger advised Sansa that “every possible series of events is happening all at once.” Always be prepared for every eventuality was the crux of his message.
In a way, that’s how Story operates at shortstop.
“I try to map it out in my head before (the play happens),” Story said.
Story’s improvement in the field this year has happened while he’s struggled at the plate. Story’s strikeout rate has climbed to 36 percent, and his batting average has sunk to .227. Pitchers have figured him out a little bit after he blasted 27 home runs and batted .272 in 97 games as a rookie.
Blocking that out can be a challenge, he admitted.
“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie,” Story said. “When you’re out there and taking your warm-up throws to first, after that, you’ve got to flush it. Then it’s time to be a shortstop. That’s first and foremost for me. I like to take pride in that.”
Story’s emergence on defense has only strengthened a Rockies infield that already had elite players at other positions. Nolan Arenado, who appears to be on his way to winning his fifth-straight Gold Glove, is almost unanimously considered the best defensive player in the MLB. At second, Colorado has DJ LeMahieu vacuuming up ground balls. Mark Reynolds, who’s earned most of the starts at first this year, is no slouch in the field, either.
All those guys — plus Story — help Rockies pitchers navigate lineups at Coors Field, the most challenging pitcher’s venue in the big leagues.
“It definitely gives us confidence,” said Jeff Hoffman, after allowing one run in seven innings to the Phillies. “Knowing that we have Nolan at third and DJ at second, who are kind of the established guys, and Mark, who’s been great. And now Story. He’s going to be one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. You can see that. It gives you a little peace of mind, and you can go out and just try to use those guys to your advantage.”
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