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Brandon Crawford is ‘on the board’ against lefties, which will be a story to watch all year


D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports


Brandon Crawford’s crucial home run Saturday put three runs on the board, taking the Giants from a 3-1 hole to up 4-3 in the sixth inning, a lead they would hold.

It’s not the only tally the shortstop was conscious of.

“It’s definitely nice to get on the board against a lefty. We’ve faced some tough ones so far this year,” Crawford said after the game.

Entering the at-bat against Colorado southpaw Ben Bowden, the lefty-hitting Crawford was 0-for-10 against lefties in the short season. He started 0-for-10 last year, too, against lefties, eventually was platooned and eventually hit his way out of that platoon.

He is in less danger this year of frequently sitting against lefties, although Mauricio Dubon will take some of his at-bats at shortstop when Austin Slater is healthy enough to play center. (And it is notable that Thairo Estrada, whom the Giants picked up Sunday from the Yankees as shortstop depth, is a righty batter.) Regardless, the Giants are a different team without Crawford at shortstop, so his ability or inability to hit lefties will be significant this season.

There have been seasons when Crawford has hit lefties better than righties, but not recently. Even with his upturn in 2020, when he posted his best total OPS (.792) of his career, he struggled against southpaws, slashing .226/.351/.290 with five walks (good) and just two extra-base hits, both doubles (bad), in 37 plate appearances. Dubon and Donovan Solano moved over a few times last season, but it became clear that the Giants were best with Crawford at short and Dubon in center.

While the 34-year-old, who’s on the last year of his contract, is getting older, he’s still a solid major league shortstop and enters the Giants’ home series with the Reds on Monday as the ninth best in baseball defensively thus far, according to Statcast’s Outs Above Average. Every hit against a lefty helps his case to be in the field every game.

“It definitely always feels good,” Crawford said of his home run against a lefty. “I guess to prove that I can do it and hopefully stay in there next time a lefty comes in.”

The Giants have won six of their first nine, and two of those have arisen directly from clutch Crawford hits; his go-ahead double on Friday welcomed fans back to Oracle Park in pretty apt style. And yet, they have started off hot without their lefty bats starting off hot.

Mike Yastrzemski is batting .125, Brandon Belt .167. Both have shown signs of waking up, as have Tommy La Stella and Alex Dickerson. Crawford is at .172, but with the two biggest hits of the season.

“I think anybody who’s watching has noticed that our offense has not been where it’s going to be or where it could be right now, and we’re still managing to win baseball games,” Belt said Sunday. “I think that’s just a testament to how great the pitching staff has done so far and [we have] played good defense as well, so we got a lot of different ways we can win baseball games.”

They can rely upon their defense most when Crawford is at shortstop. He will be at shortstop far more often with more at-bats like the one against Bowden.

 

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