Giants

Giants SS Brandon Crawford wins third straight Gold Glove

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USATSI

Giants SS Brandon Crawford wins third straight Gold Glove

SAN FRANCISCO — For all that went wrong for the Giants in 2017, their pitchers never had to worry when a ground ball was hit up the middle. On Tuesday, Brandon Crawford was once again rewarded for those efforts. 

Crawford won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award, becoming the first National League shortstop since Jimmy Rollins (2007-09) to pull that off. He is the 15th shortstop in MLB history to win three Gold Gloves and the first Giant since J.T. Snow (1997-2000) to win a Gold Glove in three consecutive years. Snow, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays are the only players in franchise history with more Gold Gloves than Crawford. 

“It was definitely a tough season on the field and off the field,” said Crawford, who dealt with the death of his sister-in-law early in the year. “It’s an individual award, but to at least get some sort of positive out of this season is definitely nice. Obviously we’d prefer team recognition but an individual award is still something nice to look back on.” 

A year after having three winners, the Giants were limited to one. Joe Panik was not even a finalist after winning for second base in 2016 and Buster Posey was likely dinged in the final balloting for catching just 99 games. Posey primarily played first base after Brandon Belt suffered a concussion in early August, and he lost out to surprise first-time winner Tucker Barnhart of the Cincinnati Reds.

Crawford was at his usual position throughout, with the exception of an early stint on the DL to deal with a groin injury. If he suffered any ill effects after his return, it didn’t show. Crawford was third among qualified NL shortstops with nine Defensive Runs Saved, and he led the group in Ultimate Zone Rating, per FanGraphs.com. As always, Crawford mixed in the spectacular on a near-nightly basis. 

The other National League winners were: Barnhart, Paul Goldschmidt, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Jason Heyward. Barnhart isn’t the only member of that list who could have benefited from the Giants’ lineups down the stretch. Belt finished as a clear leader in the SABR Defensive Index (which counts for 25 percent of the vote) among NL first baseman and he might have unseated Goldschmidt had he not suffered a concussion. 

With Crawford, Posey, Belt and Panik, the Giants have a defensive core that would be the envy of most teams. Team officials have made it clear over the past six weeks that upgrading the outfield defense is the offseason priority, and Crawford believes that continuing to rely on steady defense and pitching could help the Giants push past the 2017 disaster. On a conference call Tuesday, he noted that the Giants have a good head start with Johnny Cueto back in the fold alongside Madison Bumgarner. 

“Whether or not we improve on our defense by getting anybody we have to put this season behind us,” he said. “Defense is always a big deal and I think in our championship seasons we’ve played really good defense in the infield, behind the plate and in the outfield. If we can improve on that, I think we like our chances going into next year.”

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — While dealing with multiple concussions, Brandon Belt was often forced to sit peacefully in a dark room to avoid noise and light. This latest DL stint also included some sitting in a room, but this time the focus was on visualization. 

Belt said he sat down and repeatedly told himself that he would be fine physically when he returned from an appendectomy. He needed to trust his body and his approach, and in his first at-bat back, he got validation. Belt flied out to the track in the second inning Saturday night. A day later, he cleared the wall, giving Chris Stratton insurance that would hold up in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Belt’s 12th of the season and 110th in the big leagues. It was his first without an appendix, and it came after no rehab games. 

“I knew I felt alright,” he said.”I didn’t need (rehab games). I guess there’s always a concern when you come back and try to be up to speed, but the way I felt in the cage, I figured I would be alright.”

Belt’s blast was the second of just three hits for the Giants, but they didn’t need any more than that. Nick Hundley had a two-run shot himself and Stratton battled without his best stuff, throwing six innings for a staff that needed a boost in the worst way. 

For the third time on this trip, the Giants won before taking a flight. This one is a short one and will get them back home, where they are 19-11 this season. The winning clubhouse was full of players and coaches eager to get away from hotels. 

“It’s awesome,” Belt said. “We’re through our toughest part of the schedule, I believe.”

The Giants have played 42 games on the road, the most in the majors. They’re just 16-26 away from home, and Bruce Bochy has said repeatedly that the team needs to play better on the road to have a chance at the postseason. But thats a goal the Giants can focus on in a couple of weeks. For now, they’re starting a stretch where they’ll play 20 of 26 at home. Those six road games are nearby — in Phoenix and Denver — and the three “road” games after this 26-game run are in Oakland. 

The Giants will spend just six nights away from their home beds from now until July 23. In other words, it’s go time. Despite their issues, they are just 4 1/2 games out in the National League West. This upcoming stretch will determine if they are a real contender, and could determine whether or not the front office is selling at the deadline. 

“We have a very, very good home field advantage with our fans and how well we’ve played at AT&T Park,” Hundley said. “If we’re going to win the division, we have to win at home. We know that, and we expect to win at AT&T Park and we’ll carry that confidence over to the next series.”

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Giants sure know how to clinch a happy flight. 

This was a road trip that should have been better, but at the very least, the players made sure they didn’t have any depressing travel experiences. They beat Max Scherzer on getaway day in Washington D.C. and won a 16-inning game on the final day in Miami. Before flying back to San Francisco for a 10-game homestand, they toppled the Dodgers 4-1 to avoid a sweep and finish the trip at 5-5. 

After scoring two-or-fewer runs in 11 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, the Giants got to four in the first three innings Sunday. Here’s how it all went down … 

—The Giants had just two hits in five innings against lefty Caleb Ferguson. Luckily, one was a two-run homer from Nick Hundley and the other was a two-run homer from Brandon Belt. Hundley’s homer was his eighth, giving him twice as many as Buster Posey. Belt’s homer was his team-leading 12th, and first since having his appendix removed. 

— Chris Stratton gave up plenty of loud outs, but got through it. He ended up allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. The Giants have won six of Stratton’s last seven starts. 

— Quietly, Will Smith has been outstanding. He lowered his ERA to 0.96 after striking out Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal and getting Yasiel Puig to fly out to right.