Crawford sets SF SS record, blasts two HRs

June 9th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- As a kid, Brandon Crawford dreamed of playing shortstop for the Giants. He now has the distinction of holding the job for longer than any other player in the franchise’s 138-year history.

Crawford made his 1,326th career appearance at shortstop in a 9-4 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field, breaking the Giants' record previously held by Hall of Famer Travis Jackson, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And he broke the record in style, hammering a tiebreaking home run off right-hander Jordan Lyles in the sixth inning and then adding a three-run shot off Taylor Hearn in the top of the ninth to notch his fifth career multi-homer game.

“Growing up as a little kid and being a Giants fan and wanting to play shortstop for the Giants and all that, you never think about stuff like this,” Crawford said. “Having the most games played at shortstop in the history of the franchise, it’s pretty unbelievable to even think about. For the accomplishments that I’ve had throughout my career, this is probably at least toward the top.”

When he jogged onto the field in the bottom of the first inning, Crawford stood alone -- literally and figuratively. Much to his surprise, the rest of the Giants stayed back in the dugout to cede the spotlight to Crawford, whose historic feat was acknowledged on the scoreboard by the Rangers.

Crawford, who drew a rousing ovation from the 24,938 fans in attendance, tipped his cap before beckoning his teammates to join him on the field. As has been the case over the last decade, Crawford continued to do it all for the Giants, helping to turn three of the club’s four double plays and homering twice to help San Francisco take the first game of this two-game Interleague series.

“Obviously, a sensational performance,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “After the game, we had a little champagne toast for him. … [Third-base coach Ron Wotus] spoke appropriately and shared that what Craw accomplished here is as impressive as anything else he’s done in his career.”

The milestone comes in the midst of a resurgent season for the 34-year-old Crawford, who is batting .269 with a .938 OPS and a team-high 14 home runs through 52 games this year. Since debuting with the Giants in 2011, Crawford has been a fixture on the infield, frequently playing through various aches and pains to cement his status as the best shortstop in San Francisco history.

“I can share that it’s a remarkable accomplishment and one that we’re actively looking to celebrate in our clubhouse,” Kapler said. “I think it speaks to his preparation, and I think it speaks to his training in the offseason and his desire and willingness to post every single day. That’s been my experience with Brandon since I’ve been here. He wants every big opportunity, never wants to come out of games, and wants to be in the lineup as much as his body will allow.”

Crawford was on pace to break the record in 2020, but he had to wait an extra year to pass Jackson following the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season. While the Giants have been crushed by injuries this year, Crawford has again stood out for his consistency and durability, solidifying his status as one of the club’s most indispensable players through the first couple of months of the 2021 campaign.

“There’s no greater accomplishment, in my opinion,” catcher Buster Posey said. “Just knowing how hard it is to show up each and every day. He deserves it. He takes care of himself on and off the field, and that’s the result.”

Belt returns
First baseman Brandon Belt was activated off the 10-day injured list on Tuesday after missing 11 games with a left oblique strain and went 3-for-4. Belt, 33, posted an .824 OPS with eight home runs over 40 games before landing on the IL with the nagging side issue on May 26. His return should be a boon for a Giants lineup that lost third baseman Evan Longoria to a left shoulder sprain over the weekend.

“In particular because we lost a productive, middle-of-the-lineup, high-quality defender style of player, it’s nice to know that we’re getting all of those characteristics back,” Kapler said. “You want to have both of them available in the lineup and productive, but the fact that we only had to survive only one day without one of those guys feels like a blessing. Obviously, we’re glad to have Brandon back.”

LaMonte Wade Jr. filled in capably at first in Belt’s absence, but he now figures to shift to the outfield and draw more playing time there. Wade, 27, started in right field and batted leadoff against Rangers right-hander Jordan Lyles on Tuesday and finished 3-for-5.

“Obviously, that defensive versatility gives us various ways to keep his bat in the lineup, and we’re going to try to do that,” Kapler said.

Long earns first big league callup
Kapler said the Giants plan to activate left-hander Sammy Long and have him pitch in Wednesday’s series finale against the Rangers. Long is expected to serve as the bulk guy behind reliever Zack Littell, who will start in place of the injured Logan Webb.

Long said he received the news from Triple-A Sacramento manager Dave Brundage after striking out six over four scoreless innings in his most recent outing on Friday. Brundage told the 25-year-old he’d be pitching again in five days, which Long found curious since the River Cats have a scheduled off-day on Wednesday.

“The wheels started turning,” Long said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was like, ‘You know, we have an off-day.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, we know you have an off-day, so the only team you’d be able to pitch for on Wednesday would be against the Rangers for the Giants.’ Then it was just hugs, handshakes, all that.”

A Sacramento native, Long is a former 18th-round Draft pick of the Rays who briefly quit professional baseball after he was unexpectedly released by Tampa Bay in 2018. Long enrolled in EMT classes at his alma mater, Sacramento State, and contemplated a career as a firefighter before deciding he wasn’t ready to give up on his big league dream. He began working out at Optimum Athletes, a gym in his hometown, and landed a Minor League deal with the White Sox after footage from one of his throwing sessions went viral on the internet.

When he became a free agent following the 2020 season, he joined the Giants and emerged as a surprise standout during Spring Training. Long continued to dominate in the Minors, where he logged a 1.99 ERA with 37 strikeouts over 22 2/3 innings in six appearances (five starts) between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento this year. He plans to have approximately 30 friends and family members in the stands on Wednesday to watch him make his Major League debut.

“It was every emotion you can think of,” Long said. “It’s been a crazy journey here. Hopefully this is just the beginning of it.”