Entries in Brandon Crawford (3)


Giants offense may be as good as they hoped

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Only one game, but what a game. A game that might lead to a trend and, at the least, stopped a three-game losing streak. A game in which the offense that the Giants hoped they had, an offense the Giants needed, was alive and well.

This Giants lineup is supposed to be good, perhaps outstanding. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford already were there. Then they added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, and the days of losing 2-1 or 3-2 — or, worse, 1-0 — were supposed to be over.

Technically, they were, but in the previous three games before Saturday the Giants scored, in order, three runs, three runs and one run, a total of seven. And they lost all three.

But finally, everything clicked. Balls were flying into the corners. Players were flying around the bases.

Brandon Crawford had a home run, double, single and four runs batted in. The other Brandon, Belt, had two hits and an RBI. McCutchen had two doubles and a single. Miguel Gomez, the fill-in second baseman (and in the ninth inning, an outfielder), had two hits and two runs scored.

And most importantly, the Giants had a 9-4 win over the Rockies at AT&T Park, where the wind was reminiscent of Candlestick Park and the victory reminiscent of those World Series years.

“It takes time,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy of the team's hitting. “These guys are good, but this is what we were expecting. They’re good hitters.”

In the early part of this ’18 season, Belt has been an excellent hitter. He has 10 home runs. He’s hitting .308. He has 26 RBI.

“I thought this is where I could be,” said Belt, 30, in his eighth season with San Francisco. “But until now, it hasn’t been the case. I feel comfortable at bat.”

Belt worked on his swing during spring training. He’s always been a patient hitter, as that record 21-pitch at bat against the Angels showed recently. Now he’s more aggressive.

Surely having Buster Posey (.307 after two hits Saturday) ahead of him in the lineup and Even Longoria after him (although Longoria so far has to match what people were hoping) has aided Belt.

You look at the Dodgers, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and once again Justin Turner, and you find power and consistency, what seemingly the Giants lacked and a reason L.A. finished 40 games ahead of San Francisco a year ago.

But now, the Giants have some punch.

“We’re better this year,” said Bochy, “and we’re not there yet. We haven’t hit our stride.”

Crawford, the All-Star shortstop, is hitting his — and hitting the ball. He was 3-for-5 Saturday with a home run and four RBI.

Nothing is permanent in sport. A kicker may change his steps on field goals, a golfer the angle of his swing. Unintentionally, of course. Crawford said he got advice from teammates, including Pablo Sandoval, and raised his bat ever so slightly. His batting average has been raised more than slightly, to .302.

“And our bullpen has been really good,” said Bochy, knowing full well in the end that pitching wins games. On Saturday, Will Smith, back after a year following Tommy John surgery, Pierce Johnson, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson didn’t give up a run after they followed starter Chris Stratton, who went five innings and gained the victory.

After Sunday, the Giants go on the road. They’ll be around the .500 mark. Madison Bumgarner is throwing again. Jeff Samardzija appears to have regained his touch. 

Maybe there’s a summer of success on the horizon.


Giants carry lead, and bad memories, to K.C.

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — This is a tale of accomplishment, of a man so skilled in his profession that he leaves others, his opponents, virtually helpless.

This also is a tale of wariness, of being alert that no matter how much Madison Bumgarner has done, winning World Series games and calling down echoes of Koufax, Gibson and Whitey Ford, the San Francisco Giants are far from done.

Mad Bum once more was magnificent Sunday night in Game 5 of the Series, a 5-0 Giants victory that gave them a three-to-two lead. “He was fantastic again,” affirmed Ned Yost,  the guy who manages the other team, Kansas City.

But as Yost made so clear and Giants followers know so well, the Series now goes to the other team’s ballpark, and that brings up unhappy thoughts.

It was 2002 when the Giants led the Angels three to two, went to Anaheim and lost the last two games and the Series.

Brandon Crawford is the Giants’ shortstop now and was one of the heroes Sunday night, driving in the first two runs. But in 2002 he was a 15-year-old in Danville, and a fan as passionate as those who filled AT&T Park Sunday night screaming and chanting.

“When we lost,” said Crawford of the Series 12 years ago, “I was depressed for a couple of days. I remember in Game 6 they had a 5-0 lead, and they lost.”

So it’s all there, the bad times, and now the thought of more good times, of adding another Series title to those of 2010 and 2012.   

The Giants are one game away. As they were in Anaheim.

“We’re going back to our home crowd,” said Yost, sticking in a dart. Game 6 is Tuesday. Game 7, if needed, is Wednesday.

“The place is going to be absolutely crazy. We’ve got to walk the tightrope now without a net, but our guys aren’t afraid of walking without a net.

“We fall off, and we’re dead. But we win Tuesday, nobody’s got a net.”

What the Giants have are memories. Long ago memories. Unpleasant memories.

If it could happen in ’02, it could happen in ’14. What the Giants probably won’t have unless there is a seventh game is Bumgarner.

“Would he be available if that situation came up?” Giants manager Bruce Bochy asked rhetorically after some journalist wondered if Bumgarner, who went nine innings and 117 pitches, could come in as a reliever in Game 7.

“Yeah,” said Bochy. “He’d have two days off, and he’s a strong kid. We wouldn’t mind pushing him one time, but the talk about doing it twice, we did have some concern.”

Bumgarner is 4-0 in four World Series starts, including two this time, with an 0.29 ERA. He’s allowed only 12 hits in 31 innings, and struck out 27, eight of those Sunday night.

It’s a truism of sport that if the opponent doesn’t score the worst you’ll ever get is a 0-0 tie. But the Giants are able to score, in their own unique manner. On Sunday night they got their first run when Crawford grounded out, their second when Crawford singled.

Then, most unlikely of all, they broke loose in the eighth when Juan Perez, a defensive specialist who had a paltry .170 batting average in the regular season, was sent up to bat for Travis Ishikawa — and hit a ball off the centerfield fence which scored two more runs.

The wizards keep casting their spell.

“That’s the way we do it,” said Crawford. “Our averages may not be high, but we can produce when we have to.”

Bumgarner, the 25-year-old lefty from North Carolina, has been remarkably productive. And to the other team, baffling. The Royals had only four hits and were able to get only one man as far as second.

"He's so fun to watch,” Crawford said of Bumgarner. “He's always fun to watch. In the postseason, you could look at him and he looks like he's just pitching in the middle of June, like it's no big deal. He takes the pressure off of everybody else. We just feed off of him."

Said Yost, the K.C. manager, “You know what (Bumgarner) does so well, and what he’s so impressive doing, he commands his fastball in and out and up and down. He commands his breaking ball in and out, and really can command that pitch down and away in the dirt when he needs to get a strike.”

Bumgarner, pure country, and the last year or two quite shaggy, with a beard and long hair, said he’s humbled to be compared with the greats of history.

When he did a TV interview in front of the Giants dugout, fans who had been yelling “MVP, MVP” simply let loose a resounding cheer. Always polite, Bumgarner tipped his cap.

“It’s something that’s tough to say right now,” Bumgarner insisted when asked about the meaning of the victory. “I’m just happy we won. That was a big game for us.”

Which put them in position for the game that’s even bigger, the one that would give them another World Series. The one they couldn’t get back when Brandon Crawford was a fan, not a hero.


SF Examiner: Scrappy Giants getting by with what they've got

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

A veritable laugher by those offensively challenged Giants. A win with only a few grimaces. A win manager Bruce Bochy said was “important.” A win without anybody in the lineup batting higher than .290. A win because of that old, reliable pitching.

Every day is a party at AT&T Park, where the stands are full — Wednesday was the 27th consecutive sellout of 2011 — the games are torture and the town’s team is almost immune to the consequences.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2011 SF Newspaper Company