Hero dad: Crawford's walk-off homer gives SF 5th straight win

August 17th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- Another day, another walk-off.

For the second time in three days, the Giants staged an improbable comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning, pulling out a dramatic 2-1 win over the D-backs on ’s two-run, walk-off home run off Ian Kennedy on Tuesday night at Oracle Park.

Despite an outstanding start from , the Giants entered the bottom of the ninth trailing, 1-0, after being stymied by nemesis Merrill Kelly for most of the night. They were down to their last strike before Thairo Estrada, fresh off his first career walk-off homer in Sunday’s wild 8-7 win over the Pirates, continued his ninth-inning heroics by driving a 2-2 fastball off the right-field wall for a two-out triple.

That brought up Crawford, who ended the game two pitches later by crushing another fastball from Kennedy to straightaway center field for his fourth career walk-off homer and his first since June 27, 2018. The Giants have now won eight of their last 10 games and five in a row to pull within 4 1/2 games of the Padres for the third National League Wild Card spot with 46 games left to play.

“All wins are great, obviously,” Crawford said. “But the walk-offs are always a little bit more exciting and fun. With how the season’s gone, the kind of up and down, it’s definitely nice to have some fun, exciting wins.”

Crawford almost didn’t get a chance to step up to the plate, as the D-backs thought they had closed out the win when Estrada took a 1-2 pitch from Kennedy that caused home-plate umpire Cory Blaser to take a step back as if he were preparing to ring him up. Blaser didn’t end up calling a strike, as the pitch was outside, allowing Estrada to set the table for Crawford.

“That made me nervous,” Crawford said. "Obviously, I’m on deck, so I didn’t see where the pitch was, but I did see him take a step back like he was going to call it a strike. Good take by Thairo.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo initially emerged from the dugout to argue the call, though he acknowledged afterward that Blaser was correct in allowing the at-bat to continue.

"Officially it was a ball," Lovullo said. "I think what threw everybody off was the umpire kind of staggered and leaned back like he was going to ring him up. We look at habits and body language and we thought he was going to get it, but he didn't. And you have to give the Giants credit. They didn't shut down and two big base hits later, they win a baseball game."

The Giants appeared destined to end up on the wrong end of a pitchers’ duel, as they once again struggled to solve Kelly, who fired seven scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.56 ERA in 14 career starts against San Francisco. They managed to stay in the game thanks to Junis, who gave up one run over seven innings in his longest start of the year for the Giants.

Junis allowed only a fourth-inning solo shot to Christian Walker while walking none and striking out seven in the 101-pitch gem, rebounding from his clunker last week at San Diego, where he allowed a season-high six runs over 2 1/3 innings. Junis had struggled to regain his slider after coming off the injured list last month, but he felt like he took a step forward on Tuesday, racking up 11 of his 16 swinging strikes with the pitch.

“That home run almost woke me up and lit a fire under me a little bit,” Junis said. “I stopped worrying about mechanics and what my stuff was doing at that time. I just started throwing everything full intent and believing in every pitch and the results came those last few innings. I felt like I turned a corner a little bit towards the end.”

Junis watched the ninth-inning rally unfold from the Giants’ weight room, sprinting out to the clubhouse when he heard the loud cheers that followed Crawford’s decisive blast. He wasn’t the only one rejoicing – Crawford’s wife, Jalynne, posted an adorable video on Twitter of the veteran shortstop’s young kids staying up past their bedtime to watch their dad come through with yet another big hit for the Giants.

“It’s awesome,” Crawford said. “I’m glad she kept the kids up.”