Villar's quick thinking produces big play in 9th

Astros shortstop throws out Giants' Crawford at third base to help snuff threat

Villar's quick thinking produces big play in 9th

HOUSTON -- He has all the tools to be a solid Major League shortstop, but Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar sometimes provides more frustration than inspiration. Villar was Johnny on the spot in the ninth inning Wednesday night.

Villar made a heads-up play with the game on the line, cutting down Brandon Crawford with a strong throw to third base on a grounder off the bat of Nori Aoki, to help the Astros preserve a 4-3 win over the Giants at Minute Maid Park.

"I think he stayed under control and delivered a clean throw to [Luis] Valbuena for that out," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I mean, the game's slowing down for him, which is nice to see. He had a little pep in his step tonight, too. Played really clean at shortstop and delivered a base hit. He popped up a bunt on his own, but I mean for him to contribute like that with the game on the line is nice. It's what he's here for."

Villar is splitting time at shortstop with Marwin Gonzalez while they await the return of starter Jed Lowrie, who's out until after the All-Star break following thumb surgery. Of course, top prospect Carlos Correa, a shortstop, is now at Triple-A and a phone call away from reaching the Majors.

Villar has had chances to show what he can do at shortstop before, but hasn't been able to maintain his focus. The only thing that mattered Wednesday is he made perhaps the biggest defensive play of the night.

"It couldn't have been more perfect in that situation," said closer Luke Gregerson, who gave up a leadoff double to Crawford. "He got caught off guard where the ball was hit and made a decision to go to third. Perfect play."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.