Brandon Crawford jogged out of the dugout as he has thousands of times over the last 11 years and immediately realized something was different. He took a quick glance over his left shoulder and then smiled and shook his head. Crawford is not someone who likes to be alone in the spotlight, but in this moment he had no choice.
Crawford was taking the field for the 1,326th time as a shortstop, a franchise record for the Giants, and manager Gabe Kapler and his teammates sent him out before the bottom of the first alone. Kapler had spoken to Rangers manager Chris Woodward about his plan, and the Rangers honored Crawford on their scoreboard as fans from both sides cheered.
It was one of the coolest moments in a career overflowing with them. It was also a bit strange for the man in the center of the ballpark.
"I didn't know it was coming. It was kind of like a 'Talladega Nights' scene where I didn't know what to do," Crawford said after the game. "It was kind of awkward, but it was awesome."
Crawford was in the spotlight all night, but he got to share it.
Mike Tauchman hit a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning and Crawford added his second homer of the night an inning later. The Giants turned a tense night in Arlington into a laugher, winning 9-4 to finish 38-22 in their first 60 games, nine games better than their pace from a year ago in a shortened season that ended with bitterness.
This one is looking more and more like something special.
Tauchman's blast, like his catch in Los Angeles, was the kind of moment you look back on months later. It came out of nowhere, too. Tauchman had just six hits in his previous 40 at-bats overall and three in his previous 29 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. But he got ahead in the count and jumped on a 96 mph fastball from Josh Sborz, sending a low liner out into the right-field seats. The grand slam was the first of his career and turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead.
"I haven't been playing the way that I want to at the plate and that happens -- that's why you play 162 games," Tauchman said. "I was trying to have a good at-bat for the boys there and got a good pitch to hit. I was fortunate to put a good swing on it and come through. It's never easy when you're not performing the way you want to, but it felt good."
Tauchman barreled around the bases and across the plate and carried that energy into the dugout, where Kapler was waiting with one of the most emotional reactions of his two years in San Francisco. Crawford said the Giants "were happy it was (Tauchman)" because of the way he had been grinding.
The rest of this night was about No. 35, who passed Hall of Famer Travis Jackson for the most shortstop appearances in franchise history, played his usual spectacular defense and homered twice to get to 14 on the year, which is tied for his second-highest total in a season. He has played 52 games.
Crawford has turned back the clock, so much so that even the others doing the same thing are watching in amazement. After the ninth-inning three-run shot, Crawford, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt sat in the dugout. They all burst out in laughter.
"They were kinda looking at me like, 'who is this guy?'" Crawford said.
Kapler called it a "sensational performance," but either way the Giants were going to celebrate Crawford on this night. Kapler said before the game that he wanted to do something special, and after the Giants wrapped up a win to open their road trip, a clubhouse toast was held. Ron Wotus, the longest-tenured Giants coach and a man who has been Crawford's infield coach most of his career, said a few words.
"He shared that what Craw accomplished here (with the record) is as impressive as anything else he's done in his career," Kapler said. "In large part because it's very difficult to keep your job at the major league level, let alone play as many games as he has in a San Francisco Giants uniform."
Crawford has a packed trophy case and two World Series titles to his name, but he said this was one of the best nights of his career, noting that Wotus' speech "completed the whole night."
"I think that's one of the cooler accomplishments of my career," he said of the record. "Growing up a Giants fan and seeing so many great shortstops come through the organization and being able to pass a Hall of Famer, it's a very cool accomplishment. It's something you never really think about throughout your career, and then years go by and games go by, you inch closer and closer. It's a pretty cool accomplishment for me."