Sticking with Crawford pays off for Giants
Defensive whiz contributes big plays, RBI triple
CINCINNATI -- There were few real choices of note that Giants manager Bruce Bochy was left to wrestle with after a Game 4 victory in the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
After scoring eight runs, why mess with a good thing, right?
That said, Bochy was intrigued by the choice he had at shortstop -- the steady and dependable Brandon Crawford, whose defensive capabilities far outweigh the merits of his bat, or Joaquin Arias, who had two doubles and scored two runs off the bench in Game 4.
Go with reliable or the hot hand?
"I slept on it and I decided to go with Crawford," Bochy said.
In a series where just about every move Bochy made panned out, this one certainly did as well, as Crawford not only made two fine defensive plays but kick-started the Giants' six-run fifth inning with an RBI triple that preceded Buster Posey's grand slam, the big blow in a 6-4 series-clinching win in Game 5.
"I'm glad I stuck with him," Bochy said afterward.
Crawford was without a hit in his first eight at-bats of the NLDS, including a flyout in his first at-bat in the second inning against Reds pitcher Mat Latos.
In the fifth inning, just as it appeared that Latos was settling into a nice rhythm, Gregor Blanco singled to start the inning and Crawford turned on a fastball on the inner half of the plate, sending it on a line over the head of Joey Votto at first base for an RBI triple and a 1-0 lead.
Five batters later, Posey cleared the bases with a grand slam off Latos for a 6-0 lead.
Crawford's play on defense was pivotal as well.
In the fifth inning, after the Reds had scored twice to cut the lead to 6-2, he ranged far to his left to get a ground ball by Votto, throwing him out at first base to end the inning.
In a game full of nice defensive plays, Crawford's play in the eighth inning was critical.
With one out and a runner on first base, Ryan Hanigan lined a ball that appeared headed into left field. But Crawford took two quick steps to his right, dove and caught the ball. If that ball goes into left field for a hit, then the Reds could have had the makings of a big inning.
It wasn't just Crawford, either.
Left fielder Gregor Blanco made a diving catch in left field to end the third inning. In the sixth inning, the Giants escaped a two-on, no-outs situation when Cain struck out Hanigan and Posey threw to third base to get Jay Bruce out trying to steal third base.
Finally, there was the diving catch that center fielder Angel Pagan made to end the eighth inning with two runners on and the Giants clinging to a 6-3 lead.
"It's huge," Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain said of the defense. "You need those. You have to have those kinds of plays to win."
When this was over, Crawford stood toward a back corner of the visiting clubhouse at Great American Ball Park watching his teammates celebrate and dodge popping corks. His mop of hair was soaked and he couldn't have cared less.
It was a lot to wrap his head around -- the Giants becoming only the second team to win every road game in a series (Texas did it in 2010 against the Rays) and the first National League team since Division Series play started in 1995 to come back from a 0-2 deficit.
"This was such a fun experience," he said. "And to win three games at their place ... I don't think anyone expected that."