SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly, Brandon Crawford spent much of his day saving teammates.
When Nick Hundley’s throw down to second in the fifth inning drifted, Crawford deftly moved a few feet off the bag, grabbed the ball and placed a nifty tag down on Manuel Margot to erase a runner in scoring position. In the seventh, Pablo Sandoval had trouble finding a two-out pop-up into the midday sun. Crawford, his glove shielding his eyes, kept creeping and creeping until he was standing in Sandoval’s place at third, and he gloved the ball to end the inning. An inning later, Tony Watson got what looked like a double-play ball back to the mound, but his throw to second was low. Crawford did well to scoop it, getting the lead runner out on a force play.
Then there were the contributions that were impossible to miss.
Crawford broke an 0-for-18 mini-skid with a scorched triple off the wall in the fourth inning. That brought Andrew McCutchen home with the game-tying run. Two innings later, the likely All-Star starter went the opposite way for a two-run double that would hold up in a 5-3 win over San Diego.
On many days, Crawford might weigh the offensive and defensive contributions equally. But when you’re riding a mini slump …
“I always want to make plays out there for sure, but when you’re 0-for…I don’t even know, I’m not going to lie, the triple and doubles felt better today,” he said, smiling.
They were sorely needed, too. The Giants were caught off-guard when Jordan Lyles was a late scratch with elbow tightness, and they struggled against hard-throwing lefty Matt Strahm until Crawford broke through. He said he had seen signs in recent days that his swing from May and early June was returning.
“You just know him. You know it’s a matter of time,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “What a great game, and we needed it. We needed someone to come through. This guy was throwing well…when you’re in a game like this you need someone to deliver and Craw did it.”
The contributions backed Andrew Suarez, who continues to get better and better and show signs of his maturity on the mound. Suarez discovered early that his slider had abandoned him, so he teamed up with catcher Nick Hundley to go sinker-changeup heavy. That led to three double plays in the first four innings.
Crawford was in the middle of those, and so much that went right on this day. But he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and the ending of this one stuck with him. Crawford was one of three Giants who couldn’t get under a high pop-up to center in the ninth that dropped for a sun-aided double. His throwing error on a tough roller led to some anxiety as the Padres tried to come back.
“It’s frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I’ve always said I try to not take at-bats to defense of defense to at-bats. I try to separate things. Obviously I want to go 3-for-3 any day but I wanted to make those plays.”
They were minor blips on a day that otherwise showed all the reasons why Crawford very likely will be starting for the National League All-Star team next month, and they won’t cost him any sleep. Not during a week when his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, a second Crawford son.
“A little tiring for a couple of days,” Crawford said of his week, “But they’re still in Arizona, so I’m getting good sleep right now.”