Brandon Crawford

Crawford haunts ex-teammates as Giants' losing streak continues

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ST. LOUIS -- Brandon Crawford did not retire in the offseason, but Juicy J did. 

For over a decade, "Bounce It" was the final song on his five-track victory soundtrack, which he carefully curated every spring. He would mix in others such as Flo Rida and Steve Aoki and DJ Khaled, but Juicy J was a constant. "Bounce It" played after hundreds upon hundreds of Giants wins, at home and on the road, from Opening Day to the World Series. 

It was there for just about every one of Crawford's wins over 13 seasons in San Francisco, but when he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in March, he decided to retire it. The Cardinals quickly made him their clubhouse DJ, and Crawford chose an Ice Cube track for the finale after wins. 

On Sunday afternoon, as his former teammates walked slowly to the bus and tried to make sense of a five-game losing streak and a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals that included a 6 2/3-inning no-hit attempt by Sonny Gray, "It Was a Good Day" blasted through the home clubhouse at Busch Stadium. 

Crawford had made that the choice for the final track on the Cardinals' victory playlist. On Sunday, it was a very appropriate one. 

The best shortstop in Giants history made a key play at third and then lined an insurance RBI double into right field in the eighth inning. It was his first hit at Busch Stadium since he signed with the Cardinals, and it led to him doing the postgame interview on the center field scoreboard as his wife and children proudly watched.

As Crawford stood in front of his locker later in a red City Connect shirt, he joked about how long it took. 

"We're in June. I know," he said, smiling. "June 23rd."

To be fair, Crawford had just 10 previous at-bats in his new home ballpark. At 37, he signed with the Cardinals to be a backup and a mentor to young shortstop Masyn Winn, who looks like a budding star and -- like Crawford throughout his Giants career -- has proven to be durable at shortstop.

Crawford has just 17 appearances and 46 at-bats this season, but because third baseman Nolan Arenado is nursing a sore elbow, he twice started at third base in this three-game series, which the Cardinals swept. They were the first two starts of Crawford’s career at a spot other than shortstop, and on Thursday at Rickwood Field, one of his friends had a plan to test him. 

"I told him I was going to bunt when he was playing third," Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said. "I really was, like, genuinely serious. I was 100 percent going to bunt no matter what at some point in the game. I guess I missed my opportunity."

Yastrzemski strained his oblique after one at-bat Thursday and was removed from the game. It wasn't until the eighth inning Sunday that Crawford faced a real test at third, and he came through in a huge spot. 

The Giants didn't have a baserunner until Patrick Bailey's solo homer with two down in the seventh. An inning later, with Gray done for the day, they scored twice and pulled within one run. With two outs and two on, Heliot Ramos pulled a high chopper down the line. 

Crawford might be 37 now, but experience can make up for a dropoff in other areas. He had played with Ramos and Wilmer Flores, the runner at second, and knew his only shot was to beat Flores to the bag. 

Crawford won the race by inches and confidently jogged off the field as others stood in place. As Crawford reached the first base line, Giants manager Bob Melvin put his hands up to challenge. A review confirmed the out.

"Never a doubt," Crawford said before pausing for a few seconds. "There might have been a second of doubt."

While there were plenty of quips from the visiting dugout Thursday, Crawford said he didn't hear much Sunday.

There were Giants who spent time with Crawford before the three games, but by the middle of Sunday's game, it was clear this likely would be an unhappy flight home. They were in no position to have any more fun.

The Giants are a season-high six games under .500 and headed back for a homestand that will start with TBA, TBA and TBA for their banged-up rotation. They won't have Logan Webb back on the mound until Friday, and on Sunday, he couldn't find a way to salvage part of the trip. The Cardinals scored four runs in the first two innings and held on late. 

Webb is Crawford's closest friend on the current Giants roster and told him he’d throw one fastball when they finally matched up. He ended up going with four straight changeups for a strikeout in the second inning. 

"The first at-bat I probably would have [thrown a fastball] if [the score] wasn't 3-0 already," Webb said. "It's always good seeing him. I just wish I did better today."

Crawford said he understood, and came away impressed with a changeup he played behind for years. 

"His changeup looks a lot more like his fastball than I thought it would," Crawford said, smiling. "Those first four, I thought one of them was going to be a fastball, at least. None of them were. I thought he would challenge me. I didn't think he was that scared, especially with nobody on base. I get it. Especially with how I swung at the second one, I don't blame him."

Crawford got his fastball the next time up and lined out to center. In the sixth, Webb walked him on a 3-2 slider. 

Over 13 years in San Francisco, Crawford grew accustomed to facing friends. He hit against his brother-in-law, Gerrit Cole, and once was plunked on the ankle by George Kontos after the right-hander joined the Pittsburgh Pirates. During Crawford's MVP push in 2021, he faced Madison Bumgarner -- "hit a homer off him," he pointed out -- when the Arizona Diamondbacks came to town. 

Facing Webb was a different kind of challenge, and while there was nothing particularly noteworthy about their three matchups, it still was a memorable day and week for Crawford. He kept playing baseball primarily so his kids could spend another summer at the ballpark, and he was thrilled that they experienced Rickwood Field on Thursday. As Crawford walked in front of the cameras Sunday, he pointed a portion of his large family toward a side room.

"I was happy to contribute, no matter who we're playing against," he said. "To be able to get a big out and contribute with the bat as well is a great feeling."

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