Crawford helps Giants move to brink of title
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Brandon Crawford thought back to 2002, when he was 15. He’s pretty sure he sat in the stands for a World Series game in San Francisco, though he’s not sure which one.
He remembers the Giants leaving town with a 3-2 Series lead, bursting ahead 5-0 in the seventh inning of Game 6 in Anaheim and then losing the title to the Angels in seven games.
“Hopefully it comes out better than it did back then,” he said. “I was depressed for a couple days.”
The hometown kid played a key role in moving the Giants within one win of their third title in five years, driving in three runs to back Madison Bumgarner’s four-hitter in Sunday night’s 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals that put San Francisco ahead 3-2.
Known as having the best hair on the team, with bouncing brown curls framing his beard and mustache, Crawford was selected by the Giants in the fourth round of the 2008 amateur draft. It was a perfect fit.
He grew up in Pleasanton, about 40 miles from San Francisco, and played lots of baseball in his family’s yard.
“I imagined myself as all different sorts of players, usually Giants,” he said. “Royce Clayton was my guy when I was a little kid.”
Born in 1987, he thinks he was only a few months old when he was taken to his first big league game.
“Going to Candlestick and having it cold and windy,” he said. “I didn’t really care.”
These days the Giants’ video board shows a photo of him attending a game when he was just a few years old.
Crawford made quite an entrance in the major leagues: a go-ahead, seventh-inning grand slam off Shaun Marcum in a 5-4 win at Milwaukee on May 27, 2011. That made him the sixth player to hit a slam in his big league debut.
By the end of that season, he had displaced Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera and Mike Fontenot as the Giants’ starting shortstop.
Not a strong hitter — he’s batted .246 to .248 in each of his three full seasons — Crawford has worked hard to improve his plate discipline. He drew only 33 walks in 2012, then 42 the following year and 59 this season.
He played in 153 games this season, rarely getting a day off.
“He is a guy that you forget about,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I made it a point to give him a break in September, let him get his legs back and catch his breath. He has been a better player. Next year I will try and do a better job giving him a few more breaks. He seems to respond well to it.”
In the NL wild-card game at Pittsburgh, Crawford backed Bumgarner with a fourth-inning grand slam off Edinson Volquez in an 8-0 victory, becoming the first shortstop in major league history to hit a postseason slam.
He came up with one out in the second inning Sunday and runners on second and third. Kansas City elected not to intentionally walk him to load the bases and bring up Bumgarner. Crawford grounded a full-count changeup from James Shields to second base, sending Hunter Pence home from third.
With two on and two outs in the fourth, he lofted a knuckle curve into short center for a single that scored Pablo Sandoval and doubled the lead.
And then in the eighth, Crawford hit an RBI single off Wade Davis that drove in the Giants’ final run.
“He’s a threat, if you make a mistake,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Crawford is hitting .333 (6 for 18) in the Series. He seemed surprised to wind up as the second star behind Bumgarner.
“It’s something I didn’t even imagine probably as a little kid,” Crawford said. “I just wanted to get here and play on the Giants. Now being able to contribute to a World Series game is obviously a dream come true.”