Brandon Crawford. Photo by Denise Walos.
OK, take a deep breath and relax for today and hopefully the San Francisco Giants will do the same. They have a tough opponent this next series, in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they’ll need to have their wits about them if they are to succeed. Success is defined in this instance as taking at least two games out of three. The Giants have found some interesting ways to win games this year, and some old-fashioned ways to lose. From Madison Bumgarner’s grand slam and five runs batted in, to being shut out on Saturday, by a committee of five Colorado Rockies’ pitchers, it’s been that kind of ride.
Regardless of what has transpired the first thirteen games of the season, San Francisco must put it behind them and approach this upcoming series as they would the playoffs. Yes, it’s still early, but the Dodgers are supposed to be down, with Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list and the other starters battling minor ailments, and yet they are a full game up on the Giants. That’s not going to cut it, over the course of the season, so when the Giants go up against the Dodgers, they must be able to get the job done.
If the Orange and Black can take two of the three, then the Blue Crew will leave NorCal in a dead tie for first. The Giants cannot fall behind the Dodgers by any more than the number of games that they can make up in head-to-head play, so they need to keep the level of competition at the highest possible point. The Giants have featured some entertaining baseball in the first two weeks and have the cast of characters to maintain the pace.
Mandatory Credit: Beck Diefenbach-USA TODAY Sports
For instance, one play overlooked in the excitement of Brandon Crawford’s splash home run yesterday, in the Giants’ win over the Colorado Rockies, is the attempt by Gregor Blanco to win the game in the ninth with an inside-the-park home run. He was sent from third in the first place because Michael Cuddyer had misplayed the ricochet off the wall, and then bobbled the ball as he tried to heave it into the cut-off man. Tim Flannery saw enough to send Blanco, and the result was that the ball was waiting for Blanco, who nonetheless made a wide, fade-away slide, necessitating that Bruce Bochy stall for time to see whether or not there was a challenge in the works.
Crawford’s splash hit was the first in extra innings since Barry Bonds hit one in 2003, and the 64th hit by Giants’ hitters. The Giants actually would have had two splash hits in yesterday’s game, had Pablo Sandoval’s home run in the sixth, not hit a flag pole, causing the ball to carom off back into the stands.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from splash hits, I watched the pre-game yesterday when Greg Papa interviewed Andrew Baggarly, and asked about Buster Posey’s bunt single on Thursday night. Papa said something to the effect that though Posey batted cleanup against Arizona, he was not very clean-up like in his approach. Noting that the third baseman was playing way back, Posey dropped down a bunt, the first time he ever done so for a single. Angel Pagan, who was on third base at the time, scored on the play when the ball was thrown past first base down the line.
Mar 2, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) at bat during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
When asked how often Posey was going to be laying down bunts, Baggarly said he had asked Posey what the bunt was all about. Posey told him that sometimes, with two out, the third baseman will play super deep, and that was the case, with Pagan on third base. There was no play on, simply Buster putting down a bunt and hoping Pagan could score on it, which he did.
Crawford’s splash hit notwithstanding, his early success against lefties in 2014 has become the object of great interest to those of us who are seeing the results of Crawford’s working with Barry Bonds this spring. Against left-handed pitching this year so far, Crawford has had 7 hits in 14 at-bats (.500). All seven of his hits have gone for extra bases. He has one home run and 5 RBI’s and an OPS of 1.660.
Contrast those numbers with last year’s and see the difference, even in the early going. In 146 at-bats, Crawford had 29 hits (.199), only six of them for extra bases, 3 home runs, 13 RBI’s and an OPS of .546. I have maintained since Crawford joined the club, that I did not care what he batted, because he saves more runs with his glove than he’ll ever produce with his bat. It’s just nice to see him getting the job done offensively as well.
Couple Crawford’s success with that of Pagan, Michael Morse, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt, and you have a whole lot of offense going on. They’ll need every ounce of it to do what the rest of the league has been unable to do: defeat the Dodgers. On the other hand, half of the Dodgers’ four losses, have come at the hands of the Giants. That’s two down and two more to go this week. The Giants need to repeat last year’s accomplishment of taking the season series from the Dodgers, and the way to do that is to take two out three, over and over, until you have at least ten wins. Two out of three, over and over, continuing tomorrow night.
June 25, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) celebrates after scoring a run in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports