BRONX, NY — Just once in his 13-year MLB career has Brandon Crawford tallied three hits including a home run while also swiping a bag.
The only other time before Saturday that Crawfod put up those numbers came in Coors Field and a 23-5 Giants win on Sept. 1, 2020. There were a whole lot more opportunities that game than in San Francisco’s first win of the 2023 season — a dramatic victory in Yankee Stadium.
Crawford not only matched that Coors game, but topped it by turning the game-ending double play that ultimately withstood a replay review. Crawford finished 3-for-5 with a home run, steal, three RBI and two runs scored.
“It was a good day. I guess my best game of the year so far,” Crawford said with a wry grin postgame.
Crawford, 36, is the game’s oldest regular shortstop. He dealt with knee inflammation, the same injury that sent him to the injured list twice last year, during spring training but started his 12th consecutive Opening Day — the second longest streak in the San Francisco era. And then Saturday, he powered the Giants to a 7-5 victory that served of a reminder of his importance to the club.
“Without Craw, we’re not going to get to where we want to be,” starter Alex Cobb said postgame.
“If we get Craw healthy and producing at the plate, it’s going to be a really good season for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
Crawford began the game by exchanging the lineup cards with his brother-in-law, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
Then in the top of the fourth inning, Crawford followed up Joc Pederson’s home run — which made for SF’s first run of the 2023 season — with a two-run shot of his own. He swung on a 3-0 pitch from Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt.
Schmidt’s 92-mph fastball right below Crawford’s letters and down the middle of the plate ended up 415 feet away from home. The second-deck shot was the farthest hit ball of the night.
“All are unbelievable signs that we wanted, as a team, to see our leader go out and do,” Cobb said. “Swinging 3-0 and having the confidence in your swing to do that…him being the aggressor, him taking the advantage of the jump that he did, and the biggest thing it shows me is that his knee’s feeling pretty good, too.”
His next at-bat, Crawford socked a double past Giancarlo Stanton and to the wall in right field before scoring later in the inning on a Thairo Estrada single.
“Those are the type of at-bats that we’ve seen from him at his best,” Kapler said. “And on a pretty big stage here at Yankee Stadium. Some meaningful moments for him.”
That middle infield duo combined in the ninth inning to spin the game-winning play. Crawford’s ninth-inning RBI single served as a necessary insurance run because Camilo Doval struggled with command and the pitch timer in the ninth. But Estrada and Crawford combined to just get Stanton.
The grounder off Stanton’s bat took a big hop at the last second, but Crawford expertly played it with his body behind the ball.
In 2021, Crawford led the Giants to a franchise record 107 wins by producing the finest season of his career and playing 138 games. Two years later, and two years older, he won’t be expected to repeat that exact production or volume.
Crawford’s also used to the weight of being a bellwether.
“I would want to be healthy and productive no matter if they said that or not,” Crawford said. “I don’t think about that or anything.”
During that 2021 season in which he finished fourth in National League MVP voting, Crawford also set a career-high in steals. With his first swipe of the season on Saturday, Crawford is on his way to topping that in a world with pitch clocks and disengagement limits.
“And homers,” Crawford joked when informed he’s on pace to decimate his career-high on the bases. “On pace for 81.”