Crawford makes All-Star case with 15th HR

June 15th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- is already one of the most decorated shortstops in Giants history, with two World Series rings, a pair of All-Star nods and three Gold Glove Awards to his name. Now, at 34, he appears on pace for perhaps the best season of his career.

Crawford continued his remarkable resurgence by launching his team-high 15th home run of the season and collecting three RBIs to help carry the Giants to a 5-2 win over the D-backs in Monday night’s series opener at Oracle Park.

With the team coming off a 3-3 road trip to Texas and Washington, D.C., manager Gabe Kapler said he considered resting Crawford on Monday, but Crawford showed up to the ballpark feeling better than expected and decided he was fine to play.

“We agreed that perhaps we’d try to push him for the next couple of games,” Kapler said. “He felt great about that, and I felt good about it. His presence in the lineup was certainly needed tonight.”

Crawford entered Monday on a 1-for-16 slide, but he delivered the Giants’ first hit of the game with a first-inning single and then broke a 1-1 tie by hammering a 92 mph sinker from D-backs right-hander Matt Peacock out to left-center field for a two-run shot that gave San Francisco a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning.

Through his first 58 games of the year, Crawford has now tallied the second-highest home run total of his career, behind only the 21 he hit during his first All-Star campaign for the Giants in 2015.

The opposite-field shot also extended Crawford’s stretch of clutch hitting, as 10 of his 15 homers have either given San Francisco the lead or tied the game this season. He is the fastest Giants shortstop to reach 15 home runs in a season since at least 1901, doing so in his team's 66th game of the year.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be on some good teams with a lot of good players, and the season he’s having to this point, man, it’s just been an absolute blast,” said left-hander Alex Wood, who picked up his first win since May 16 after allowing two runs over six innings. “He’s been our MVP and one of our MVPs to this point, and I just can’t wait to watch the rest of the year unfold for him. I’m really happy for him. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”

Carson Kelly homered off Wood to bring the D-backs within one in the sixth, but the Giants added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Austin Slater and a sacrifice fly by Crawford, who is now tied for second in the NL with 44 RBIs this season.

Dominic Leone, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee combined for three scoreless innings to seal the victory for the Giants, who improved to a National League-best 41-25 while handing Arizona its 20th consecutive road loss of the year.

Crawford is only two years removed from logging a .654 OPS over 147 games for the Giants in 2019, but he’s reinvented himself at the plate by making some tweaks to his swing and buying into the new offensive philosophies espoused by hitting coaches Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind over the last couple of years. He’s now hitting .257 with an .887 OPS over a team-high 58 games this year; that OPS would rank as the best mark of his career.

His surging production certainly hasn’t escaped the notice of his teammates.

“A few looks I’ve gotten from Buster [Posey] have made me feel the best,” Crawford said. “I think it was when I hit the homer in Texas off the lefty [Taylor Hearn] where I crossed home plate and I saw Buster, and he was like, ‘Who are you? Who is this guy? How did you hit a left-handed slider that hard?’ I think just stuff like that, you can tell that they’re impressed or it’s the best that they’ve seen me.”

While his teammates continue to gush about him, the baseball community at large has been a little slower to catch on to what Crawford has been doing this year. In the first All-Star Game ballot update that was released on Monday, Crawford ranked fourth among NL shortstops, trailing the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., the Cubs’ Javier Báez and the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.

Tatis will be the runaway favorite to start for the NL, but the Giants feel that Crawford is more than deserving of earning his third career All-Star selection as well.

“I’ve always followed him from afar,” catcher Curt Casali said. “There’s certain people that you just admire on opposing teams, and just the way that he goes about his business and the fluidity that he has at shortstop, it’s pretty cool. He makes some really great plays, and he makes the hard ones look even easier.

“I don’t know what it’s been like the last couple of years because I’ve only been here this year, but I think he’s taken to the challenge of maybe some people writing him off. Without Brandon Crawford, we’re not where we are right now. He’s been arguably our best player, one of our most important players, and the fact that he goes in there day in and day out is huge for us. I’m just really happy to be on the same team with him.”