San Francisco Giants

Brandon Crawford continues to defy lefty logic

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said he saw a bit of everything from Angels starter Hector Santiago on Saturday -- fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and even the unusual lefty-on-lefty changeup.

Left-handers keep trying different ways to get Crawford out. And Crawford keeps putting up defiantly good numbers against lefties. In his first two at-bats Saturday, Crawford hit a single off Santiago and his team-leading fifth home run, before striking out in his third. He is 7-for-21 with two homers off left-handers this season, with an OPS of 1.107.

It’s not a new trend. Last season, Crawford hit .320 against lefties with an .879 OPS. The secret?

"I wish I knew exactly," he said. "I’d try it against right-handers, too."

In seriousness, Crawford credits a lot of work in the cage and preparation for left-handers after they held him to a .199 average during the 2013 season. The results have been stark. On the other hand, his average against right-handers dipped from .269 in 2013 to .213 last season and .204 so far in 2015.

"He just hangs in there very well against lefties," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Two of Crawford’s home runs this season have come against left-handers, and overall he is already halfway to his career-high total of 10 -- though he cautiously recalled Saturday that in 2013 he hit five home runs before May 1, only to hit four more the rest of the year.

"Hopefully that doesn’t happen again this year," Crawford said.

Crawford said he doesn’t mind leading the Giants in the production categories of homers (five) and RBIs (12), but also wouldn’t mind seeing the middle-of-the-order hitters catch up with him. Buster Posey narrowed the gap in the seventh with his fourth home run and 11th RBI.

"He told me he didn’t want me to get too far ahead," Crawford said.

* The saying goes that you see something new every time you go to the ballpark. There probably aren’t many things Bochy hasn’t seen at this point, but the end to Saturday’s 5-4 Giants win, he said, was one of them.

The Angels pulled within a run on David Freese’s two-out RBI single off closer Santiago Casilla that left men on first and third in the ninth, and Taylor Featherston came in to run for Freese. Matt Joyce then hit a sharp grounder to the right side -- that ricocheted off of Featherston, rendering the play dead, the runner out and the game over.

"That was a wild finish," Bochy said. "First time I’ve seen that."

"I’ve seen it happen obviously, but never to end the ballgame," said starter Tim Hudson, who’s in his 17th major-league season.

Giants second baseman Joe Panik was playing in shallow right field as part of a shift, and Bochy and Panik were both confident that Panik would have fielded Joyce’s ball anyway.

Instead the teams and sellout crowd at AT&T Park witnessed an oddity of an ending. The Giants said it was the first MLB game to end on a runner being hit by a batted ball since June 27, 2010,when the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez was hit by a Jose Tabata batted ball to end a loss to the A’s.

* Until the ninth, the Giants seemed to have the game well in hand thanks in large part to Hudson. The 39-year-old allowed just two hits over the first eight innings while matching Madison Bumgarner for the longest start by a Giant this season. He walked Collin Cowgill to start the ninth inning and was taken out at 96.

"I’m not a guy that has been known for going complete games, pitching 250 innings a year," said Hudson, who turns 40 in July. "But it is nice to know you’re able to go out there and pitch deep into the game.

"But I wouldn’t expect it too much from the old guy, to be honest," he added.

Hudson allowed just two hits, though both cleared the fence for home runs off the bats of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Trout appeared to beat a good pitch down and away, while Pujols’ came on what Hudson said was a mistake. Both were no-doubters.

"What’re you talking about?" Hudson deadpanned. "They were paint-scrapers. They barely got out."

The bullpen made it interesting but did preserve Hudson’s first win of the season and the 215th of his career. He’s one away from moving into a four-way tie for 82nd all-time with Wilbur Cooper, Charlie Hough and Curt Schilling.

* Sergio Romo replaced Hudson and allowed a single to Trout that gave the Angels two men on with one out. But he came back to strike out Pujols, freezing Pujols on a fastball that conjured some memories of the pitch he threw past Miguel Cabrera to end the World Series in 2012.

"I do feel that I’m confident in my abilities where I can compete with everyone and I can get everybody out," Romo said. "I’m known for one thing, throwing my breaking ball. If I can find ways to make it better, setting it up, setting up other pitches, I’m just trying to pitch and use my stuff. Today it worked."

Romo did strike Trout out in a big situation late in the Giants’ win Friday night. Saturday, Trout won the encounter.

"You’ve got to tip your cap on that," Romo said, "and see you again tomorrow, buddy."

* One silver lining of what became a nail-biter: The Giants improved to 8-3 in one-run games this season, with their eight wins leading the majors. Said Hudson: "I mean, that’s the kind of ball we play."

* The Giants have also won five straight at home, which is their longest streak since they won 10 in a row at AT&T last Aug. 26-Sept. 12. They’ll go for the sweep Sunday behind Tim Lincecum (1-2, 3.27). The Angels start Jered Weaver (0-3, 5.83). First pitch at 1:05.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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