Astros-Giants a family affair for Cole, Crawford

May 21st, 2018

HOUSTON -- On Tuesday, two brothers-in-law will make their way to Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston and take in a ballgame between the Astros and Giants.
This doesn't sound all that unusual. After all, countless family members do this every day throughout a season. Why make note of it?
Well, in this case, the brothers-in-law won't be watching this game in a leisurely manner. Come to think of it, they won't even be watching the game together.
And they'll be rooting against each other -- sort of.
The brothers-in-law in question are , one of several co-aces in the Astros' starting rotation, and , the Giants' All-Star shortstop. Cole is married to Crawford's sister, Amy, a former softball player whom he met on his first day of college at UCLA and started dating about a year later.
Amy will most likely be in the stands when the Astros and Giants open a two-game series in Houston on Tuesday. Her husband is the scheduled starting pitcher; presumably, her brother will be in the starting lineup.
This takes sibling rivalry to an entirely new level.
"Overall, it's fun," Cole said. "I think he enjoys competing; I enjoy competing."
This won't be the first time Crawford has stepped into the batter's box to face his brother-in-law. Cole played for the Pirates in the National League for several years before he was traded to Houston, meeting Crawford's Giants for two series each season.
In total, Crawford has four hits in 18 at-bats against Cole. Since Cole became an official member of the family -- he and Amy married in November 2016 -- Crawford is 2-for-6 with two strikeouts.
In the big picture, this means very little. Hitters can tally more than 600 plate appearances over the course of a full season. Pitchers can face dozens of hitters and throw thousands of pitches. The times that Crawford and Cole face each other come and go in the blink of an eye.
But it's fun to talk about, no?
"It's more fun for family, I think, than it is for us," Crawford said. "It doesn't help that he's a really good pitcher -- probably one of the best in baseball this year. That doesn't add to the fun of it for me."
Still, it must be strange for Cole to look to home plate and see someone so important to him on a personal level, and be tasked with making sure that person has a bad experience at the plate.
Is it weird?
"I've been asked that question for like five years now, and I can't really come up with a word that kind of encapsulates," Cole said. "I think it's probably hard for both of us to block out the idea. I root for him, he roots for me and now we're not rooting for each other anymore. Amy certainly gets put in a little bit of a predicament as well."
Ah, yes. So what does Amy do when her husband is on the mound, pitching to her brother?
"I don't know what she tells him, but she tells me that she roots for me to get a hit but not drive anybody in, and for him to win," Crawford said.
That's pretty much Cole's understanding as well.
"She's rooting for the most positive outcome for each of us that doesn't have an effect on the game," Cole said. "She wants us both to do well -- but not really at the expense of each other."
Monday was an off-day for both teams, giving them a free night in Houston. The Coles and Crawfords planned to spend that evening together. Maybe they'll mention Tuesday's game; more likely, they'll stick to less complicated subjects.
What's important is that while they're not friends on the field, when they're away from the park, they have genuine affection for each other.
"He's a consummate professional," Cole said. "A good husband, a great dad. A good example to look up to."