NEW YORK -- For most of the 2016 season, Carlos Beltran's bat has been the lone saving grace for the Yankees' offense.
It's a bat that has driven in a team-high 61 runs. It's a bat that's smacked a team-high 20 home runs and a team-high 20 doubles. It's a bat that has logged a .305 batting average and an .898 OPS, both of which are also team highs. But in the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, it wasn't Beltran's bat that led the Yankees to victory. It was his glove.
Beltran's defense was stellar Friday, as the right fielder made two crucial plays behind starter Masahiro Tanaka to keep runs off the board. The second play, a running stab in the sixth inning that stole a sure double, possibly a triple, from Brandon Crawford, helped Tanaka get out of his final frame in order. But the first play, a 91.2 mph laser throw home to double up Gregor Blanco and keep a zero on the scoreboard in the third inning, may well have been the most important of the ballgame, at least to Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
"Obviously throwing out the runner at home saved a run," Girardi said. "[That] could've been the difference."
To Beltran, the throw was a product of a veteran ballplayer just doing what he has been taught to do. He put himself in the right position to make a play and his natural ability took over from there. It's a routine play for a three-time Gold Glove winner like him.
But Beltran isn't the same defender he was back in 2008 when he won his third Gold Glove. In fact, he's not even close. By defensive runs saved, a stat that grades players on how well they play their position with 0 being average, Beltran has been worth -9 runs thus far in 2016, the third-worst of any right fielder this season and a far cry from his mark of +17 in '08, his career year.
These defensive struggles, coupled with his renaissance at the plate, led to questions early in the season about whether Beltran should transition to being a full-time designated hitter rather than waste his stamina going after balls he may not even track down in the outfield. But to Beltran, these questions are unfounded, and Friday went a long way to showing why.
"Honestly speaking, I love being in the outfield," Beltran said. "I know at age 39 there always are going to be doubts. I don't care about that. I care about the work that I put in every day."
In a lot of ways, the night Beltran had in the outfield was about more than proving to himself or proving to Yankees fans that he's still a capable defender. With his name constantly cropping up in trade rumors with the non-waiver Trade Deadline now barely over a week away, Beltran proved himself to still be more than a bat. He's also occasionally a glove, an arm and two legs.
Put that together and any team, be it the Yankees or another contender, has itself a complete ballplayer.
Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.