As he plays out the final season of a six-year, $75 million contract extension signed back in November, 2015, 34-year-old Brandon Crawford should be putting the finishing touches on a solid career at the shortstop position.
Players Crawford’s age typically move to a less physically demanding position, fade into a platoon role or start to consider retirement plans. But on a night when Crawford set the Giants’ franchise record for games played at the shortstop position, the Bay Area native reminded fans that he’s the best player on the team with the best record in the major leagues.
With a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning and a three-run home run to break Tuesday’s game open in the ninth inning, Crawford led the Giants to a 9-4 victory over the Rangers with another performance that showed why he’s ranked among the most valuable players in the majors this season.
After a scoreless first inning against Rangers starter Jordan Lyles, the Giants sent Crawford out to the field in the bottom of the inning on his own as he took his place alone atop the record books, passing Hall of Famer Travis Jackson with his 1,326th appearance for the club at shortstop.
Fortunately for Crawford, the Giants surrounded him with help. A teammate who’s developed a reputation similar to the one held by Crawford at the beginning of his Giants career, a glove-first player with a penchant for clutch moments, provided the biggest boost.
Mike Tauchman’s batting average is still hovering below the Mendoza Line and his OPS entering play Tuesday in Texas was the lowest of any member of the Giants’ starting lineup. The man penciled into the No. 9 slot in the order hasn’t been much of a threat at the plate this season, but he’s now responsible for two of the biggest moments of the Giants’ season.
The first came May 28 at Dodger Stadium when Tauchman made a leaping grab to reach over the outfield wall and rob Albert Pujols of a walk-off home run in an eventual 8-5 Giants victory. The second came Tuesday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, when Tauchman yanked a go-ahead grand slam over the right field wall in the eighth inning to give the Giants a 6-4 lead.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler said the club hasn’t lost any confidence in Tauchman’s abilities, in part because the quality of his plate appearances has been so strong.
“He hasn’t been rewarded for that very often since he’s been a Giant and that can be really frustrating, so to see him have that moment, I was personally very happy for him,” Kapler said. “I thought he grinded and prepared for that moment and then he showed up in a big way.”
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— SFGiants (@SFGiants) June 9, 2021
With a 107.7-mile per hour line drive into the right field bleachers, Tauchman pushed the Giants to 38-22 through 60 games, which is a nine-game improvement over the club’s 29-31 mark in the 2020 60-game regular season. On a night that will go down in the history books thanks to Crawford, who hit a go-ahead grand slam to lead the Giants to victory in his first major league game, Tauchman saved the day with only his third hit in his last 26 at-bats.
Crawford was one of the three other Giants who scored on Tauchman’s grand slam, joining Brandon Belt and Steven Duggar.
Belt reached base four times Tuesday upon returning from a two-week stint on the injured list, but a Giants team that can’t seem to shake bad news on the injury front received more of it early against Texas as designated hitter Alex Dickerson departed with back tightness after striking out in his first plate appearance.
Dickerson has a long history of back issues, but Kapler said he was removed only as a precaution.
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Author: Kerry Crowley