Crawford's 'off the charts' day aids ASG case

June 4th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three years ago, Brandon Crawford served as the starting shortstop for the National League at the All-Star Game at Nationals Park. Could the 34-year-old veteran be in line to reprise that role at this year’s Midsummer Classic at Coors Field? He’s certainly showing that he deserves to be in the mix.

On the same day the 2021 All-Star ballot was unveiled, Crawford bolstered his case for his third career selection by slugging a go-ahead homer and driving in four runs to lead the Giants to a 7-2 win over the Cubs in Thursday night’s series opener at Oracle Park.

“It was an off the charts game for Craw,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

The Giants improved to 16-8 at home and 35-21 overall, the best record in the NL. Given their perch atop the NL West standings, San Francisco will have a chance to be well represented at the All-Star Game, with Crawford, Buster Posey, Kevin Gausman and Tyler Rogers emerging as worthy candidates through the club’s first 56 games.

The Giants encouraged fans to submit their All-Star ballots by featuring photos of Crawford and Posey on the Oracle Park scoreboard in between innings Thursday. But the more compelling advertisement took place on the field.

Crawford opened the scoring with an RBI single off Cubs right-hander Zach Davies in the second and then snapped a 2-2 tie by hammering a three-run shot off lefty reliever Rex Brothers in the fifth.

After the Giants put a pair of runners on with one out, Cubs manager David Ross opted to lift Davies and summoned Brothers to face Crawford, who promptly won the left-on-left matchup by blasting a 3-0 fastball out to the visitors’ bullpen in right-center field for his team-high 12th home run of the year. Crawford is now 6-for-14 with two homers and two doubles in his career against Brothers.

“In that at-bat, in that situation, I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Crawford said. “We have the go-ahead run at second base against a hard-throwing, tough lefty. It was really just, 'Try to see a ball over the plate and put a good swing on it.' I think it just happened to be a 3-0 count right there. It was three sliders in a row and then a fastball over the plate, so I wanted to put a good swing on it there.”

Overall, Crawford is batting .255 with an .873 OPS, the second-highest mark among Major League shortstops, behind only Boston’s Xander Bogaerts (.910). He’s also developed a knack for delivering clutch hits for the Giants, as eight of his home runs this year have either tied the game or given San Francisco the lead.

“It’s been fun to watch,” Mauricio Dubón said last week. “He doesn’t get a lot of respect from the media. Sometimes people don’t put him in consideration for the best shortstop in the league, and in my mind, he’s the best shortstop in the league right now with what he’s doing.”

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Crawford also continued to dazzle on defense, making a brilliant barehanded play on a slow roller by Kris Bryant in the third. Crawford fielded Bryant’s grounder with his fingertips, but he readjusted his grip and quickly fired to LaMonte Wade Jr. at first base to record the out.

“It’s insane,” right-hander Anthony DeSclafani said of Crawford. “I think when you’re talking about the best, it’s consistency and doing it for a long time. It’s not just one year, or three years. He’s been doing it for a really long time and it’s super impressive to watch. I’m just glad to be on his team. To be able to watch him night in and night out, it’s great.”

DeSclafani enjoyed a productive night as well, allowing only a two-run home run to former Dodger Joc Pederson over six innings to pick up his fifth win of the year. Pederson blasted an 0-1 fastball into McCovey Cove to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the third, but DeSclafani came back to tie the game with an RBI double off Davies in the fourth. The hit snapped an 0-for-40 stretch for DeSclafani that dated back to 2019.

“I’m glad I finally got a hit,” DeSclafani said. “More importantly, I’m glad it was a timely hit to tie up the game. I feel like I’ve been having some decent at-bats. I’m trying to act like I know what I’m doing in the box and all that stuff. I’ve had a few good swings this year and nothing’s kind of gone my way with it. I’m glad I put a swing on a ball today that got us back in the game. It was a lot of fun.”