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Crawford set to break Giants' franchise milestone at shortstop

NBC Sports
Brandon Crawford

Brandon Crawford has succeeded as a big leaguer in part because he never lets the moment get too big.

He is calm and collected at all times, whether he's stepping to the plate with an eight-run lead or with the bases loaded and the Giants desperately needing a big hit. For over a decade, he has worn the same expression on his face after nearly every play he has made at shortstop, only occasionally flashing a slight scowl after the rare mistake. 

Crawford stays in the moment as well as a professional athlete can, but sometimes the big picture presents itself. Maybe he sees a stat on the scoreboard or after a game. Maybe his father passes along a milestone he's about to hit. Or maybe a reporter points out that after all these years, the accomplishments are starting to really add up.

That was the case this spring when Crawford was asked about a season that promised to be noteworthy even before anyone realized he would be turning back the clock at the plate. 

By starting in Seattle on April 1, Crawford joined Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Robby Thompson as the only Giants to start 10 consecutive openers. He entered the year needing 52 appearances at shortstop to set the franchise record for games played, something he will do tonight in Arlington on Tuesday night. 

"It's kind of crazy to think about, really," Crawford said this spring. "Obviously the dream was to play for the Giants and I think that's pretty well-documented, but you never think about playing 10 consecutive opening days or having the franchise record for games played at shortstop. You never think about stuff like that. It just seemed so far-fetched. It's kind of crazy to even try to wrap your head around."

 

Crawford might attempt to do that at some point Tuesday, when he appears at shortstop for the 1,326th time as a big leaguer and passes Travis Jackson, a Hall-of-Fame infielder for the New York Giants in the 1920s and 30s. The player who grew up dreaming of being the Giants shortstop will stand alone atop the franchise record book.

Crawford started to live that dream out in 2011, when he made his debut on May 27 in Milwaukee and hit a grand slam in his third big league at-bat. Since then he has been a fixture in the Giants lineup, never playing fewer than 143 games in a full season and reaching 150-plus on three occasions. 

Crawford never has had a major injury, going on the IL just once as a big leaguer, when a strained groin cost him 14 games in 2017. But he has played through so many minor ailments over the years that he could probably spend his off days assisting trainer Dave Groeschner. Crawford's throwing shoulder acted up in 2014 and has required extra maintenance over the years, he has had a couple of oblique scares, and he has played through plenty of aches and pains in his lower body and throwing arm. 

This year alone, Crawford has dealt with rib cage tightness, a tight quad, a calf contusion, and walked away from a hard collision Saturday that will cost Evan Longoria at least a month. He has started a team-high 47 of 60 games and has played 35 more innings than any other Giant. When you consider all that, it's no surprise that Crawford is in a position to set the franchise record for games played by a shortstop. 

"There's not much of a greater accomplishment, in my opinion, just knowing how hard it is to show up each and every day, and he deserves it," said Buster Posey, who has played more games than any other Giants catcher. "He takes care of himself on and off the field, and that's the result."

Crawford will break the mark nearly five months after his 34th birthday. He's the oldest everyday shortstop in the big leagues by two years, but he's not just out there soaking up innings -- he's once again putting up All-Star numbers. 

Crawford is ninth in the NL with 2.1 Wins Above Replacement and ranks fifth in the league in slugging, and eighth in OPS and RBI. His 12 homers lead the Giants, and with an OPS+ of 148, he is on pace for the best offensive season of his career. 

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Two years ago at this time, it looked like Crawford was slowing down. Last winter, much of the talk around the organization's future was about top shortstop prospect Marco Luciano and the potential for the Giants to make a splash in free agency this offseason.

 

But the most durable shortstop in franchise history still is here, and he's playing as well as he ever has.

"He's moving great. He's strong. I feel like, watching him in the box, he seems like he's moving really fast and is in a great position to hit," Posey said. "Craw, like a lot of us, he's not going out there perfect every night. I think everybody that's around the game a lot knows that physically you're never going to be perfect, but he's such a grinder and takes care of himself the best he can before and after games. It shows up with how much he's on the field and the types of plays he continually makes."

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