Crawford's bat stays hot behind Bumgarner's gem

05/12/2013 12:00 AM

05/12/2013 7:31 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy loaded his lineup with right-handers Saturday to face Braves southpaw Paul Maholm, citing Maholm's "stupid" numbers against left-handed hitters this season. In this case, stupid meant a total of four hits by left-handers off Maholm in his first seven starts, for a league-low .082 average.

The lone left-handed bat Bochy penciled in was shortstop Brandon Crawford, who after a 2-for-32 skid had six hits in his last four games. By the fourth inning, Crawford had half as many hits off Maholm as the pitcher had given up in 49 prior at-bats against left-handers, including an RBI double for the Giants' second run in what became a 10-1 romp over Atlanta behind a dominant Madison Bumgarner.

"I watch film before each game, look at the starting pitcher, so I typically look at what lefties have done against him and saw the numbers," Crawford said. "He has good stuff and throws everything, so you've really got to think more up the middle and can't think, 'I've got to pull this guy.' Just kind of keep it simple."

Crawford hit a chopper up the middle in his first at-bat and legged out an infield single. In the fourth inning, he came up with runners on first and third and two outs in a 1-0 game and hit a line drive over the head of third baseman Chris Johnson for his 15th extra-base hit of the season, a number he didn't reach last season until June.

Crawford finished 2 for 4. It was the third multihit game in the last five for the shortstop, whose mini-slump had dropped his average more than 100 points from its mid-April peak.

"These guys are going to have their ups and downs, but he's seeing the ball better, he's throwing out better at-bats," Bochy said. "It's a matter of time before they come out of it, so you stay with them."

Crawford said he wasn't overly concerned the past few weeks – more miffed – because while he felt good at the plate, he was "just missing the ball, just hitting the wrong part."

"Hit a lot of ground balls and a few popups during that stretch," he said. "So I'm just hitting the ball a little bit harder now and finding some outfield grass."

Crawford didn't get a third at-bat against Maholm, as the Giants chased a Braves starter early with a big inning for the second game in a row. This time it was a four-run fifth, in which Bochy's decision to play matchups did pay off.

With one run in on Buster Posey's RBI double and Giants on second and third with one out, Maholm intentionally walked Hunter Pence as his last hitter.

The Braves brought in right-hander Cory Gearrin to face Francisco Peguero, and Bochy countered by pinch hitting left-handed Gregor Blanco. Blanco hit Gearrin's second pitch for a bases-clearing double to give the Giants a five-run lead, and added a triple in the Giants' four-run eighth for his career-high fourth RBI.

Blanco had spent the first four innings watching Bumgarner shut down the Braves and, he said, figured the Giants wouldn't need him. When Bochy summoned him, Blanco said, he went up having taken "no swings, no stretch, nothing. It was pretty much from the bench to that swing."

The runs were a welcome change for Bumgarner, who had received a total of four in his previous four starts. Bumgarner tantalized a free-swinging Braves lineup with breaking pitches out of the strike zone and had a season-high 11 punchouts against the Braves, who entered the game as the most strikeout-prone team in the National League.

"They swing a lot and swing hard," Bumgarner said. "So you try to keep mixing it up and keep making good pitches, and that's what we were able to do. (Catcher Guillermo Quiroz) did a good job back there. He deserves a lot of credit."

Bumgarner departed to a loud ovation after the seventh and paused at the dugout step to high-five Quiroz. The two have worked together twice this season, and Bumgarner has allowed two runs with 18 strikeouts in those 14 1/3 innings.

It was Bumgarner's first win in five regular-season starts against the Braves. The left-hander shrugged that off – but not the importance of the Giants having a chance to win three out of four from Atlanta.

"I think they've got as good a shot as anybody of playing October baseball," Bumgarner said.

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.


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