Bruce Bochy joked that after Brandon Crawford’s walk-off home run against Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers gave the Giants a 5-4, 10-inning win on Sunday, he told Crawford that the shortstop’s days off from now on will come against right-handed pitching.
Earlier this spring, Bochy had floated the idea of taking Crawford, a left-handed hitter, out of the lineup against certain left-handed starters. After his first career game-ending home run, Crawford is 7 for 14 against left-handers on the year with five extra-base hits and five of his seven RBIs.
“He smoked that one,” Bochy said. “He’s just getting better swings off (against left-handers). That’s part of his growth. And early in the season, he just seems like he’s hanging in there so much better against lefties and trying to use the whole field.”
Crawford used nearly every inch of fair territory down the right-field line on the second pitch he saw from Brothers, a fastball that he crushed just inside the foul pole and into the waters of McCovey Cove. It was his first career “Splash Hit” and, Crawford said, his first walk-off homer at any level.
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Crawford dropped his bat immediately as he watched the ball’s flight.
“I was making sure it stayed fair,” he said. “But also I knew the game was over.”
Bochy has rested Crawford only once through the first two weeks of the season, against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. Still, Bochy said that if Crawford took any motivation out of the suggestion it might happen more often: “Good for him.”
“That’s what you want these guys to do is take anything that you may throw at them, that may not have them in the game, as a challenge,” Bochy said. “To his credit, he’s done that, and not just today.”
Crawford said that wasn’t necessarily the case. He pointed to an emphasis on improving his approach against left-handers after batting .199 with just six extra-base hits in 146 at-bats against them in 2013, compared to .269 with 30 extra-base hits in 353 at-bats against right-handers.
“I knew it was something I needed to work on, whether (Bochy) said what he did or not,” Crawford said. “That’s why I worked on it in spring training. I think it’s more the work that I put in during spring training than anything.”
That drop-off against left-handers came after Crawford actually posted a better average against them (.254) than right-handers (.246) in 2012. Asked if he’d noticed anything in his at-bats from that season that has helped, along with “staying in” longer with his front side, Crawford said, “Not necessarily.”
“I don’t know what it was (last year),” he said. “Maybe struggled against them early and then lost my confidence? I don’t know. I don’t really have a good answer for that.”
The home run was the second long drive off the bat of Crawford against a left-hander in this series – he also tripled off Jorge De La Rosa on Friday night. That ball one-hopped a wall in the deep gap in right-center field at AT&T Park. Bochy said he asked Crawford after Sunday’s homer if he had ever hit a ball farther. Crawford responded: “I think my triple might’ve gone further the other day.”
But it didn’t have quite the same impact. The Giants led for most of Sunday’s game with starter Tim Hudson breezing through the first six innings, allowing only a solo home run by Wilin Rosario in the second. But Justin Morneau homered off Hudson with two outs in the seventh, and the Rockies tied the score 4-4 in the eighth.
Nolan Arenado and D.J. LeMahieu hit back-to-back doubles off Hudson, and pinch hitter Drew Stubbs drove in LeMahieu with a single off Javier Lopez to deny Hudson a win.
“I would’ve been sick if we’d lost this game,” Hudson said. “It definitely felt like it was one-sided the whole game, but there in the end it wasn’t. It was tied up; it could’ve been anybody’s ballgame.”
The Giants nearly won in the bottom of the ninth when Gregor Blanco tripled to right-center and was waved home as Michael Cuddyer bobbled the ball in the gap. It would have been Blanco’s first inside-the-park home run, but he was thrown out at the plate, setting up Crawford’s heroics in the 10th.
Right now, it seems unlikely Crawford will get many days off. He’s batting .308 and drove in two runs Sunday, including a sacrifice fly in the Giants’ three-run fifth.
Asked if he’s feeling confident at the plate, Crawford grinned and said, “Yeah – even against righties. Now I need to figure out how to hit them.”