When the Giants handed the starting shortstop job to Brandon Crawford prior to the 2012 season, they told him that all he had to worry about was playing good defense.
The Giants would take any kind of offensive production he could offer.
But I’ve always like what I saw from Crawford, from the day he got called up to the majors. And it wasn’t just his grand slam in Milwaukee in his big-league debut. Even as he battled to hit .200 for the Giants that season, he just had the look of a good hitter.
But results have been slow in coming. Crawford followed up his .204 2011 season by hitting .248 in 2012. I felt 2013 could be a big season at the plate for Crawford. It was one reason why I drafted him in fantasy baseball league (and, yes, it’s an NL-only league; and, yes, I was the last owner to select a shortstop).
After a quiet first week, Crawford is starting to produce at the bottom of the lineup, and Tuesday brought one of the bigger moments of the brief big-league career.
With the Giants trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth, the Giants got something going after walks to Gregor Blanco and Hector Sanchez to open the inning. Colorado starter Juan Nicasio was replaced by Adam Ottavino.
Crawford greeted Ottavino with a three-run home run to left — his first opposite-field home run since opening the 2011 with Class A San Jose rehabbing a broken finger suffered in spring training that year.
“I’ve kind of lost the feeling for opposite-field home runs,” Crawford quipped afterwards.
It was only his second home run in 363 at-bats at AT&T Park, and it was the first home run this season for a Giant not named Pence or Sandoval.
Here’s another interesting home run fact for Crawford: he’s hit eight home runs in his career — three have been three-run homers and two have been grand slams.
The Giants don’t need Crawford to be a .300 hitter for them to succeed. But if he manages to hit .260 or .270, it will be big boost.
And Tuesday’s win wasn’t just about Crawford’s blast. It was a team effort. Every Giant who took at least one plate appearance Tuesday got a hit or a walk — well, except Brandon Belt who went 0 for 5.
Angel Pagan went 3 for 5, Marco Scutaro went 3 for 4, Pablo Sandoval was 1 for 3, Hunter Pence was 2 for 5, Blanco was 1 for 3 with two walks, Sanchez drew two walks (SANCHEZ!!!). Even Tim Lincecum and pinch-hitters Nick Noonan and Andres Torres were 1 for 1, as the Giants banged out 14 hits and drew six walks.
And the bullpen was once again outstanding in relief of Lincecum, throwing four shutout innings, allowing no hits and only one walk. Good job by Jose Mijares, George Kontos, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, who is now 5-for-5 on save pops.
Lincecum had a terrible second inning, but he might have escaped trouble with a little help from his defense. After walking Troy Tulowitzki to open the inning, Michael Cuddyer hit grounder to Marco Scutaro. Instead of taking the sure out at first, Scutaro try to throw the lead runner out at second. His throw was off the mark, allowing Tulowitzki to take third. Todd Helton’s infield chopper brought the first out of the inning, but it also allowed Tulowitzki to score. After a walk to Wilin Rosario, a wild pitch and stolen base put runners on second and third, Lincecum struck out Chris Nelson for the second out. With the pitcher Nicasio up next, it looked as if Lincecum would get out of the jam having allowed just the one run (on zero hits). But Lincecum inexcusably walked Nicasio to load the bases. Dexter Fowler followed with a two-run double, and Josh Rutledge hit a two-run single to make it a five-run rally.
“You have to feel good after the team wins, especially coming back from the hole I put them in there in the second inning,” Lincecum said. “I feel good about that. But I’m going back to the chalkboard after every start and going into refining mode and trying to fix the errors. That second inning really was a doozy for me.”
Yes, it was.