Crawford, Duffy keep Giants rolling

The streaky San Francisco Giants have one of the best offenses in the National League. It’s true. Really.

They rank first in team batting average, on-base percentage and hits, and fall just behind Colorado in RBIs. But how does a team that suffered a 13-loss June and two major losing streaks manage to prop itself up in those ranks?

This story has been updated with post-game quotes and additional material from the Giants clubhouse.

It’s because of guys like Brandon Crawford, who sent the Giants to a 4-2 win, the team’s sixth straight, over the Brewers Monday night with a two-run blast off Kyle Lohse (L, 5-12, 6.24 ERA). He took a 3-0 fastball 424 feet deep into “Bonds territory” for his 15th, the most on this Giants squad. Bruce Bochy of the shot:

“He hit it where the big boys hit ‘em.”

Bochy didn’t expect that kind of team-leading power, but knew Crawford was bound for some bigger numbers:

“I really thought he was primed to have a nice year offensively. He has shown that … He’s got a good approach up there and he’s just getting better and better and that’s what you want to see from these guys.”

Crawford chuckled:

“I’m sure Buster will catch me sometime soon.”

That statement tells it all.  With Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki back in action, a quick scan down the roster leaves little room for doubt; every player is a threat, no one player holds up the team.

Crawford, who was batting a lineup-low .268 before tonight’s game, delivered Monday’s game changer. Buster Posey, who went hitless Monday, is creeping up in the MVP ranks with a .324 average and perfect play behind the dish.

And guys like Matt Duffy, who was spotted as a bench player, at best, before the season, is silently making a case for Rookie of the Year as he bolstered his batting average to .311, a rookie-best, with a three-hit night.

The refreshed lineup also deepens the bench, giving opposing pitchers no relief. Gregor Blanco, who was pushed out of the lineup so a healthy Nori Aoki could resume his post in left field, cracked a first-pitch RBI double straight off the bench in the seventh to put the Giants up by two.

Get ready for the Giants offense to become, what Bruce Bochy calls “the team that they really are”:

“Getting Nori back, that’s gonna help us. Here we had Blanco on the bench and he comes through with a huge hit to give us a little cushion. It’s gonna make our bench better.”

Crawford added:

“I think we have some depth now. We’re back at full strength and I think at Spring Training this is what we were thinking…We’ve just been playing good baseball. Been hitting the ball well especially when we need to get a run in. Our pitching has been great and our defense has been great so I think this is kind of what we were looking for a couple weeks ago when we were struggling a bit.”

The Giants’ pitching, too, has been on the rise since Jake Peavy and Matt Cain returned. The rotation is 10-1 in the last 13 games.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

The Giants’ pitching, too, has been on the rise.

Chris Heston (W, 11-5, 3.14 ERA) took his 11th win with a seven-inning, five-hit game. He wasn’t too sharp in the early innings, but tightened up the screws until his two-run sixth.

With the Giants up 3-0, Jonathan Lucroy cracked an RBI double to score Gerardo Parra, who walked. Khris Davis, in the lineup for a scratched Ryan Braun, cut the score to 3-2 with a single to score Lucroy from third.

Heston is also making a quiet Rookie of the Year run. His 3.14 ERA is the lowest of all Giants rookies during the San Francisco era (through 20 starts), besting Bob Knepper‘s 3.28 in 1977. Said Bochy:

“He’s got good stuff. Got good movement on his pitches. Got a knack for getting a ground ball when he needs it and he holds runners well and does those little things that help. But the movement he’s got the sink and the run and good breaking ball and change up, he’s gonna get a lot of ground balls.”

He’s turned into a little Tim Hudson, adding two tonight to an NL-leading 22 double plays this season. With a little help, of course, from Crawnik (Joe Panik and Crawford). Heston said the duo helps his game:

“I think that’s been a big part of how I pitch is keeping tempo and keeping those guys on their toes.”

Later, Tulo

Colorado’s longtime shortstop Troy Tulowitzki — who strikes fear in every opposing pitcher’s heart — was traded to the Blue Jays for Jose Reyes.

So Tulo is out of the NL West. Weird. The Giants reacted.

Bochy was surprised the Rockies finally pulled the cord:

“You hear about the rumors … The talk was getting more and more about the possibility of him getting traded. I do know the shortstop they got and he’s a good one too … I’m not gonna say I’ll miss Tulowitzki, having to get him out but they got a good player in Reyes too.”

Crawford didn’t hide his relief:

“Definitely nice to get him out of the NL West. Jose Reyes is a good player too, though. They’re much different. Troy is a great player, I’ve enjoyed playing against him for four years now, that being said it is nice to get him out of the NL West.”

And even Heston, who hadn’t faced Tulo much, knows the weight that’s been lifted:

“He’s one of the best out there for sure. He’s definitely a threat anytime he’s in the lineup. I wish him the best, but it’s always good for us as pitchers in this division.”

Notes

Joaquin Arias was DFA’d before today’s game to make room for Nori Aoki. … Things got chippy in the ninth when Buster Posey caught Carlos Gomez stealing second. … Gomez was called safe, but then out upon review. He made a fuss, got ejected and then threw his glove on the field in frustration. Manager Craig Counsell also got tossed arguing the play. … The Giants are just one-half game behind the Dodgers in the NL West, who were idle Monday.


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