SAN FRANCISCO — Nobody does nostalgia quite like the Giants. They know they have a fan base largely committed to the familiar names, and a clubhouse that embraces a reunion no matter what the original exit looked like.
Often, those second runs in San Francisco lead to results on the field, too, but sometimes they’re hard to notice. Take Brandon Crawford, for example. He’s been a mainstay in the middle of the infield, but when he suffered through a brutal April, he ended up benefitting from two longtime teammates who played most of last year elsewhere.
In the midst of a slump that had him batting below .200 at the end of April, Crawford was told by Pablo Sandoval and Gregor Blanco that they remembered him holding his hands higher in previous seasons. They were right.
“I had looked at a ton of video before that,” he said. “(It’s) just kind of getting my hands up and into the right slot by the time I start my swing. It’s not a huge adjustment. I’m talking like a couple of inches higher, so it was kind of hard to see on video.”
A couple of inches have made a world of difference for a player who now looks like he could be headed back to the All-Star Game. Crawford is once again keeping his front shoulder in and squaring up pitches. He had three hits in a 9-4 win over the Rockies on Saturday and he has an MLB-high 31 in May. He’s batting .449 this month, raising that average from .189 to .302. There isn’t a full-time NL shortstop within 30 points of that batting average, and Crawford’s defense has long made him one of the standards at the position in the National League.
The recognition may come later. For now, the Giants are just happy to have another force in a lineup that beat down Jon Gray on Saturday and on many days can look like one of the deepest in the league. It helps when Crawford, who generally hits a bit lower in the lineup, is going like this. He had a two-run double early and then a two-run homer as the Giants pulled away. The multi-hit game was his ninth of the month.
“April was obviously a tough month,” Crawford said. “Hitting .189 for an entire month is tough, but I didn’t really waver in my confidence a whole lot. I figured I would be able to bounce back and still have a good season. I’ve done it before. I’ve been through it before.”
His manager repeated that mantra early and often as reporters asked about Crawford and other struggling Giants in April.
“It’s just a case of a good hitter that’s got his stroke and he’s got his timing,” Bochy said. “Like a few guys, he got off to a slow start, but we said they’ll get their numbers back to where they normally are. Now, they’ve exceeded that.”
Crawford has never hit .300 for a full season. He has never even hit over .275, but this run flirting with .500 for a few weeks has helped keep the Giants afloat. They had 17 hits on Saturday while getting production up and down the line, and that’s when they’re at their best.
“Overall, we’re going to have a really good-hitting team,” said Brandon Belt, who also has All-Star numbers. “We’re going to run into some guys that can shut us down, but that’s the case for anybody. But I think overall, on a day to day basis, you’ll see a pretty good-hitting team.”
On Saturday, that depth turned a tight early contest into a boat race. The only drama in the late innings was whether Crawford would became the first Giant since 1991 to hit for the cycle at home. He was a triple shy when he walked up in the eighth. He struck out. Did Crawford know what was at stake?
“Yeah,” he said. “Probably a little too much. I kind of got out of my approach. It happens.”