Brandon Crawford acknowledged that he glanced at the first reveal of the initial All-Star voting that was released earlier Monday, but just a glance.
What was his reaction to being No. 4, behind Fernando Tatis Jr. (acceptable), Javier Baez and Corey Seager (less acceptable) among NL shortstops?
“About the same reaction that I usually give to the first round of All-Star votes,” Crawford said after his go-ahead home run powered the Giants in a 5-2 win over the Diamondbacks at Oracle Park on Monday.
Just like his impending free agency, Crawford is trying to look forward without checking out his peripherals. But a focused Crawford is only making his All-Star Game case louder.
The Giants’ resurgent shortstop now has 15 home runs, which is the second most he has slugged in a season in his career — and his season is just 58 games deep. His shortstop play has been remarkable, his power relentless and his at-bats better in big spots; 10 of his dingers have either given San Francisco the lead or tied the game.
He is playing his best baseball when it matters, both in the context of games and in his contract year, and perhaps the most slack-jawed onlookers are his own teammates.
Brandon Crawford just smashed his 15th home run of the season, already the second-highest total of his career.
(It’s June 14 btw)
— KNBR (@KNBR) June 15, 2021
First-year Giant Curt Casali said he has admired Crawford from afar for years.
“I think he’s taken to the challenge of maybe some people writing him off,” Casali said after the Giants’ offense racked up 14 hits. “Without Brandon Crawford, we’re not where we are right now. He’s been arguably our best player.”
The offense showing up made Alex Wood the winner, another first-year Giant who has watched Crawford for quite a while from opposing dugouts — oftentimes the Dodgers’ dugout. The one that housed Seager.
“Where do you start, honestly, man,” said Wood, who was asked what it’s like seeing Crawford every day. “I’ve been really fortunate to be on some good teams with a lot of good players, and the season he’s having to this point, man, it’s just been an absolute blast.”
If Crawford is not the team MVP, it’s probably Buster Posey. And while the kind words from teammates are nice, the impressed eyes from his longtime catcher, who was seen him thrive, seen him struggle and now seen him star, might be the most telling.
“I think more than actually saying anything, a few looks I’ve gotten from Buster have made me feel the best,” said Crawford, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs Monday, but flashed back to a June 8 at-bat after which Posey said little but said a lot.
Nothing that he is doing, for a 34-year-old shortstop who is supposed to be on his last legs, is normal. Nor was his blast off the Rangers’ Taylor Hearn, a southpaw with a tough slider.
“When I hit the homer in Texas off the lefty, where I crossed home plate and I saw Buster was like, ‘Who are you? Who is this guy? How did you hit a left-handed slider that hard?'” Crawford remembered over Zoom. “I think just stuff like that, you can tell that they’re impressed.”
Crawford had cramped up between doubleheaders on Saturday and played Sunday regardless. He probably could use a day off but felt well enough to play Monday, after a cross-country flight, and without his bat perhaps the Giants don’t get the go-ahead runs.
The OPS is up to .886 for one of the two most irreplaceable players on the National League’s best team. Even if All-Star love does not come, MVP votes may by the end of the season.
Casali had not recorded a multi-hit game this season, and the frustrated catcher broke through for three singles — even if one was a swinging bunt and another a hard-hit, infield single into the shortstop hole.
“When that second one [the tapper down the third-base line] just kind of stopped, that’s when — if you don’t believe in a higher power, you do then,” said Casali, whose average rose from .100 to .135. “It’s no secret, it’s been a struggle this year for a multitude of reasons — I’m not going to get into it right now. But it was nice to see the ball drop and to contribute on the offensive side.”
Wood bounced back with six innings of two-run ball in which he struck out seven and induced 17 swings and misses, his highest total since July 5, 2017, when he was with Los Angeles.
“I thought tonight all three of my pitches were very consistent from the start. I was really happy with that,” said Wood, who backed off the slider but got seven whiffs on his changeup and four on his fastball. “…Two things that have been kind of an unlock for me: One is a counter-rotation move in my delivery and the other is being conscious of my posture throughout. And tonight I felt like I was moving really well.”
The Giants announced righty Zack Littell would start Tuesday, employing an opener again. Sammy Long likely will be seen after.